Washington & Wall Street: Watt Nomination Latest Fiasco for Valerie Jarrett

Last week, the Democrat controlled Senate failed to muster 60 votes to confirm the nomination of Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to be the new, permanent director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.  The White House selected Watt to be the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a cynical effort to placate the Congressional Black Caucus, but in truth the Obama Administration never made any significant effort to get Watt confirmed.

Selecting Watt was reportedly the big idea of Valerie Bowman Jarrett, a Senior Advisor to President Obama.  As with most of the presidential appointments proposed by Jarrett, the Watt nomination received zero attention from the White House after it was announced.  Barack Obama’s record of winning Senate approval for nominees has been abysmal, in part because of the incompetence of supposed advisers such as the Iranian-born Jarrett. 

Like Obama, Jarrett is a political hack from Chicago who knows nothing about getting things done in Washington.  Mel Watt and members of the Black Caucus have every right to be angry at the way that the Obama Administration used a veteran Democrat to pretend that they wanted an African American in this key housing post.  In fact, the White House made no effort to win support for Watt among key members of the Senate until the last several weeks.

The defeat of the Watt nomination is the latest disaster for Barrack Obama engineered by Jarrett, a long-time supporter and Chicago political operative whose influence over the President is exceeded only by her incompetence.  Jofi Joseph, a White House National Security Council official, was fired after attacking Jarrett on Twitter:

“I’m a fan of Obama, but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me,” Joseph wrote.  “Can anyone tell me what Valerie does all day the White House again,” and “Wondering, yet again, how this woman is a senior White House official…#nothingthere,”  John Fund reported on National Review Online.

But the failed nomination of Mel Watt is hardly Jarrett’s biggest fiasco.  The former real estate executive and community organizer is the de facto chief of staff of the White House, say insiders.  She controls the flow of information to President Obama and is personally responsible for the disaster involving the new health care law, among other accomplishments.  Former New York Times columnist Frank Rich blames Jarrett for the disastrous Obamacare rollout:

“You don’t send a president out in public without the facts so he can make a fool of himself by appearing consistently blindsided by mishaps big and small going on under his watch. It’s not [Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius who should be fired, but the coterie of Obama protectors, even if they are loyal lifers like [Senior Adviser] Valerie Jarrett, who are serving him poorly by mismanaging the information flow at the highest levels of the White House.”

Like former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Jarrett’s appeal to Obama stems from a personal connection, not professional credentials.  If you wonder why the Obama White House has displayed such grotesque incompetence when it comes to so many areas of policy, blame the President’s reliance upon people like Jarrett and Geithner, both personal friends of Obama who brought absolutely no management skills or subject matter expertise to their jobs. 

In fact, Obama has been completely dependent upon Jarrett during his entire presidency.  Edward Klein, former foreign editor of Newsweek and editor of the New York Times Magazine for many years, described Jarrett as "ground zero in the Obama operation, the first couple's friend and consigliere" in his book on the Obama presidency, “The Amateur.”  

"If it wasn't for Valerie Jarrett, there'd be no Barack Obama to complain about," starts Klein's chapter on Jarrett.  He quotes Michelle Obama on Jarrett's influence over her husband: "She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context."

In “The Amateur,” Klein argues that Obama’s toxic combination of incompetence and arrogance has run our nation and his presidency off the rails. “Obama was both completely inexperienced and ideologically far to the left of Americans when he entered the White House,” says Klein. “And he was so arrogant that he didn’t even know what he didn’t know.” 

Of course it is the job of White House staffers to provide the president with such counsel, but Obama does not seem capable of looking at Jarrett in a critical light.  As President Obama told Bob Draper of The Independent in 2009:

"Well, Valerie is one of my oldest friends," Obama began. "Over time, I think our relationship evolved to the point where she's like a sibling to me ... I trust her completely." As his surrogate, Jarrett is trusted "to speak for me, particularly when we're dealing with delicate issues".

The failure of Barack Obama to win Senate confirmation for Rep. Mel Watt is but the latest political miscalculation by Valerie Jarrett.  While conservatives may take pleasure at watching this creature of Chicago machine politics make a mess of the Obama agenda, the fact remains that Jarrett is involved in all areas of policy in the White House, from health care to the assassination of Osama bin Laden – which Jarrett opposed vociferously. 

Each time Jarrett’s incompetence and arrogance leads to a defeat for the Obama Administration, she is also damaging the interests of the United States.  But sadly Obama himself may not be willing or able to cut his ties to a long-time political ally, even if Jarrett is destroying any legacy that he may be able to claim.  Ultimately, only Michelle Obama may have the personal influence necessary to break the hypnotic spell that Valerie Jarrett has cast over Barack Obama.


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