In Talk With the Times, Valerie Jarrett Says ‘I Intend to Stay at the White House Until the Lights Go Off’

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The president’s senior adviser and confidante on immigration, working with Republicans and whether she’s the Democratic Dick Cheney.

Does it ever surprise you that people describe your influence at the White House in terms similar to those once used to describe Vice President Dick Cheney’s? Oh! Please don’t say that. Stop right there. The president listens to people who have interesting things to say — that could be the most junior person on the staff or it could be a senior adviser or it could be a person who whispers something to him across a rope line.

In his new book, David Axelrod asserts that Rahm Emanuel, when he was chief of staff, was openly uncomfortable with your relationship with the first family. In a town where access is so important, initially it probably made people a little uncomfortable. I think that has faded. I just want to do my job, and part of my job for the president is to be his friend.

You’ve been with President Obama from the very start of his political career. Are you going to stick around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to the bitter end? Oh, my goodness, I intend to stay until the lights go off. Why would I miss a single second of this?

Washington chatter among Obama’s supporters is that the administration has its mojo back. Do you feel that way? The economy is getting better, and so people feel better — 59 straight months of private-sector job growth and 11.8 million jobs created is a track record to be very proud of.

House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell would say that the economic growth happened in spite of his policies. Well, clearly I would disagree.

Some people believe that without Democratic control of the Senate, the White House is freer to act, more liberated from Congress. Is that true? We would far prefer to have kept the Senate in Democratic hands, but we play the hand we’re dealt. The president still has a robust agenda that involves Congress. And he is also going to work closely with partners outside of Washington. Already 17 states and D.C. have raised the minimum wage since the president called on them to do it. Companies are following suit.

But isn’t Walmart’s decision to raise its wage evidence for the Republican argument — that the market will sort this issue out on its own? I can’t say whether Walmart would have done that had it not been for the president’s spotlight. That ability that we have here at the White House adds value to the free-market system.

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SOURCE: N.Y. Times – Jim Rutenberg

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