“The capital is abuzz this week over who would be the new White House chief of staff if Rahm Emanuel goes home to Chicago to pursue his mayoral dream. While that’s an interesting question…it doesn’t tell you where the real power would be in the West Wing. It would reside upstairs from the Oval Office, in the second-floor quarters of Valerie Jarrett….Jarrett laughed when asked by Barbara Walters whether she would become chief of staff. ‘I love my job’, Jarrett protested. ‘I would like to do just what I’m doing.’ So she wouldn’t take the job if offered it? ‘I want to do what I’m doing,’ she said. ’I don’t want to change jobs.’ And who can blame her? Power without responsibility is a heady thing.” Dana Milbank, ‘The center of Obama’s inner circle’, The Washington Post, September 29. 2010
Valerie Bowman Jarrett is a Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Governmental Affairs. She is also a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman, and civil leader. She served as co-chairman of the Obama-Biden Transition Project. She is well-acquainted with Chicago machine-politics, starting in 1987 as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development under Mayor Harold Washington and continuing as Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Daley. In that latter capacity, she hired Michelle Robinson (nee Obama) away from a private law firm.
Jarrett took the Obamas under her wing, introducing them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own, thus setting the stage for their transition into Chicago politics. A lawyer with a background in real estate, Jarrett worked in in city government for nearly a decade before moving to The Habitat Company – a for-profit company that controls much of Chicago’s low-income housing – and serving as a board member for several organizations that provided funding and support for Chicago housing projects, operated by real estate developer, Obama financial supporter, and convicted felon, Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko.
Jarrett does not appear to have a clean pair of hands in these operations. As Chief Executive Officer of Habitat she managed a controversial housing project located in Obama’s former state senate district called Grove Parc Plaza. According to the Boston Globe, this complex was considered to be uninhabitable on the basis of unfixed problems, such as collapsed roofs and fire damage. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the complex at 11 on a 100 point scale, and recommended it for demolition. The Chicago Sun Times reported that one Rezko project was riddled with problems, including squalid living conditions, lack of heat, squatters and drug dealers.
‘Like Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett is a product of the corrupt Chicago political machine. And it is no stretch to say that she was a slumlord’ , said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. ‘We have real concerns about Jarrett’s ethics. Washington already has plenty of corruption. We don’t need to import more of it from Chicago.’
She is so close to the President that Obama describes her as a ‘sibling’. ‘Valerie is one of my oldest friends. Over time, I think our relationship evolved to the point where she’s like a sibling to me. I trust her completely.’
President Obama may put his wholehearted trust in Valerie Jarrett. But what about the rest of the nation? Let us all hope that she does not decide to treat the West Wing like the Grove Parc Plaza . It would be a shame to have to call in the demolition experts to take down 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.