Valerie Jarrett

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeffrey Bartholet

One of Obama's oldest friends and most trusted advisers on the personal constraints of White House life--and the occasional urge to break free.

Bartholet: How is [the president] adapting to life in the bubble? It was something that concerned him a bit.

Jarrett: It still concerns him. He chafes. He'd love nothing better than to slip away and go into an old bookstore and meet a random stranger and have a conversation. So accepting that that part of his life has changed, probably forever, has taken some getting used to, and I'd say he's still not used to it.

In ancient times, there was an Arab caliph, Harun al-Rashid, who would disguise himself and go out into the streets to check the pulse--

[Laughs] He'd love that. The circle of people that he interacts with every day is small by necessity. [However], we do a significant amount of outreach here in the White House; we've brought in a far more diverse circle of people with whom the president interacts. In a sense, he has to trust us to bring these new and fresh and diverse ideas to him because he doesn't have the opportunity to just go out in the world the way he used to.

You mentioned that he has a small circle around him. Some people have observed that it's basically a boys' club, [and] you are the exception. Can you discuss that, and what your role is in that small circle?

I guess I would disagree with the description of it as mostly male. Is the question, does the president have confidence in women and encircle himself with strong women to whom he gives a lot of responsibility? The answer is yes.

I recall early on that the president and the first lady were determined to have a regular date night, to be able to go out on the town.

Yeah, it was a great idea. It hasn't turned out to be as easy as they may have thought.

So what happened? Was there a moment when they realized--

I don't know if there was a single moment. …