A tough and fair question for a White House in denial about what the American people think of its policies. The answer, from Jennifer Palmieri:
Well, I think that, um, you know, the problem, um, that the president often speaks about is that even though at a macro level we are seeing a lot of encouraging signs and a lot of new jobs being created and unemployment rate going down, um, a lot of people particularly the middle class families are not feeling this yet.
Um, there is a, um, I think as you noted even leading to this, wages have not been growing fast enough, so we do feel like we have come a really long way particularly from when we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month when the president came into office to now when we are creating about 200,000. But there is a lot of work to do particularly on making sure that people see their wages going up and they understand that they have, um, uh, opportunities in this country in the future.
And that’s, you know, we think that was a message to us, to the president after the election, that there is a big part of the country that either didn’t vote for us or didn’t feel they had enough at stake to vote for to come out and vote and we are really concerned about that, basically to understand that economy, uh, um, it’s — we are making improvements.
In other news, major #shotsfired inside the Beltway, with Chicago journalist Carol Felsenthal turning on Valerie Jarrett in a long piece for Politico Magazine entitled, “Fire Valerie Jarrett.” But why? The relationship seems so healthy and conducive to governing.
Almost since the start of Barack Obama’s presidency, people who have actual, real duties in the West Wing of the White House—the working, executive part of the government, that is—have been urging him to do something about Valerie Jarrett. Push her into the East Wing, where she can hang out with Michelle Obama and the White House social secretary, or give her an ambassadorship—or something—but for Pete’s sake get her out of the way of the hard work of governing that needs to be done.
Now it’s really time to do it.
Let’s stipulate right away that it would be unfair to blame Jarrett, the longtime Obama family friend and confidante, for the walloping that the president and his party suffered at the polls on Tuesday. And Jarrett will no doubt be needed in the weeks ahead to comfort her old pals, Barack and Michelle. What happened on Tuesday almost couldn’t be worse for Obama personally—not just the Senate’s going Republican but all those governorships lost, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s defeat in Obama’s adopted home state, even after the president and first lady came to Illinois to campaign for him. The morning after the elections, Democrats and their top staffers were hopping mad, blaming Obama and, by extension, his staff for the defeat.
But let’s also face facts—and expect the president to do so as well. We’re at that point in an already long-toothed presidency when things inside really need to change. In the days before anyone knew how brutally the Democrats would get beaten, politicians and staffers and pundits were urging a shakeup of the White House staff.
This is, after all, a time-honored practice for an administration in trouble. Somebody’s got to take the blame other than president, who’s not going to resign himself. Past presidents who fared badly in midterm elections have not been shy about making high-level changes—George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill after the 2002 midterms and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the 2006 elections; Bush also replaced his chief of staff. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan at the same low point in their administrations replaced their chiefs of staff when they failed to perform up to expectations or fell from grace. George H.W. Bush did the same to chief of staff John Sununu.
Jarrett is more than a mere senior staffer to this president, and of course she is not going to be fired outright. Not ever. If her role in this administration reflected reality, Jarrett would be called “First Big Sister” to both Michelle and Barack. And who would fire the kind of big sister who “really dedicated her entire life to the Obamas,” as New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor told me when I interviewed her about her intimate look at the first family, The Obamas? “She has thrown her entire life into their cause, and she’s made it very clear that she would happily run in front of a speeding truck for them.”