President Obama parted with high poll numbers, no sense of obligation and a Presidential Library next door to Tiger Woods' Jackson Park Golf Mecca. The New York Times praised the commands of Valerie Jarrett:
WASHINGTON — President Obama was in a bind, and his chief of staff could not figure out how he had ended up there.
Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were up in arms last fall over a proposal to require employers to provide health insurance that covered birth control. But caving in to the church’s demands for a broad exemption in the name of religious liberty would pit the president against a crucial constituency, women’s groups, who saw the coverage as basic preventive care.
Worried about the political and legal implications, the chief of staff, William M. Daley, reached out to the proposal’s author, Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary. How, he wondered, had the White House been put in this situation with so little presidential input? “You are way out there on a limb on this,” he recalls telling her.
“It was then made clear to me that, no, there were senior White House officials who had been involved and supported this,” said Mr. Daley, who left his post early this year.
What he did not realize was that while he was trying to put out what he considered a fire, the person fanning the flames was sitting just one flight up from him: Valerie Jarrett, the Obamas’ first friend, the proposal’s chief patron and a tenacious White House operator who would ultimately outmaneuver not only Mr. Daley but also the vice president in her effort to include the broadest possible contraception coverage in the administration’s health care overhaul.
A Chicagoan who helped Mr. Obama navigate his rise through that city’s aggressive politics, Ms. Jarrett came to Washington with no national experience. But her unmatched access to the Obamas has made her a driving force in some of the most significant domestic policy decisions of the president’s first term, her persuasive power only amplified by Mr. Obama’s insular management style.
From the first, her official job has been somewhat vague. But nearly four years on, with Mr. Obama poised to accept his party’s renomination this week, her standing is clear, to her many admirers and detractors alike. “She is the single most influential person in the Obama White House,” said one former senior White House official, who like many would speak candidly only on condition of anonymity.
“She’s there to try to promote what she understands to be what the president wants,” the former aide said. “Ultimately the president makes his own decisions. The question that is hard to get inside of, the black box, is whether she is really influencing him or merely executing decisions he’s made. That’s like asking, ‘Is the light on in the refrigerator when the door is closed?’ ”
Gee, only today the New York Times, beefed about Steve Bannon doing exactl;y what Frau Jarrett had done for eight years of thigh-tingling Obama-licious policy.
Plenty of presidents have had prominent political advisers, and some of those advisers have been suspected of quietly setting policy behind the scenes (recall Karl Rove or, if your memory stretches back far enough, Dick Morris). But we’ve never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly to consolidate power as Stephen Bannon — nor have we seen one do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss’s popular standing or pretenses of competence.Yeah, what are you gonna do?
Mr. Bannon supercharged Breitbart News as a platform for inciting the alt-right, did the same with the Trump campaign and is now repeating the act with the Trump White House itself. That was perhaps to be expected, though the speed with which President Trump has moved to alienate Mexicans (by declaring they would pay for a border wall), Jews (by disregarding their unique experience of the Holocaust) and Muslims (the ban) has been impressive. Mr. Trump never showed much inclination to reach beyond the minority base of voters that delivered his Electoral College victory, and Mr. Bannon, whose fingerprints were on each of those initiatives, is helping make sure he doesn’t.
But a new executive order, politicizing the process for national security decisions, suggests Mr. Bannon is positioning himself not merely as a Svengali but as the de facto president.
Me? Steve Bannon is not a slum Lord; nor is he friendly with the mullahs in Tehran.