Valerie Jarrett was once the least visible of President Obama’s top advisors—but with the exits of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Robert Gibbs, Jarrett has gained duties while coming increasingly into the spotlight as Obama’s right-hand woman. In a lengthy profile, the Chicago Tribune traces her often wildly varied responsibilities (in one day, she talked to Jewish leaders about the White House’s Egypt strategy, helped the first lady with her agenda, soothed concerns the Rev. Al Sharpton had about education policy, and helped the president smooth things over with irked CEOs) as well as the close relationship she has with the president—she is often the one to ride along in his limo, instead of, for example, his new chief of staff.
In Washington, Jarrett is both admired and feared. Her ability to influence Obama makes her a sought-after ear; even though she has a difficult relationship with the US Chamber of Commerce, she is the one the CEO turns to if he wants something to reach the president. Executives describe her as “tough as nails,” drawing “fear and respect” from other executives—at least one of whom wouldn’t say anything negative about her on the record. Her unique position also makes Jarrett often the bearer of bad news—whether to the president or to others, like Desiree Rogers, whom she had to ask to leave after the state dinner crashers snafu. When Jarrett showed up unexpectedly at another colleague’s office recently, the woman gasped, “Is it time for me to leave?”