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Valerie Jarrett is named a senior aide to Obama

Parsons writes for the Chicago Tribune.

Valerie Jarrett, a prominent Chicago business and political figure and an influential member of President-elect Barack Obama’s inner circle, is poised to play a crucial role in the White House as a public liaison and senior aide to the president.

In an official announcement due today, Jarrett will be named senior advisor and assistant to the president in charge of intergovernmental relations.

In the job, she will have the ear of the president and act as a go-between with state and local elected officials and public interest groups, said a source close to Obama’s advisors.

The appointment is a key early assignment for the Obama administration. Some had speculated that Jarrett might be appointed to take Obama’s place in the U.S. Senate or possibly serve as head of a federal agency.

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But as a trusted Obama family friend and confidant to the president-elect, Jarrett is seen by many Democrats as more valuable closer in, as a top aide in the White House.

Already, she is serving as co-chair of the president-elect’s transition panel, helping to put together the team that will run the government after Obama takes office in January.

Her relationship with Michelle and Barack Obama goes back to the day in 1991 when Michelle, then a young lawyer, came into her office for a job interview. Jarrett was deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley at the time, and she ended up hiring Michelle -- but only after a joint interview with Michelle and her then-fiance, Barack Obama.

Barack Obama wanted to know if she was going to look after his fiancee’s interests, as Jarrett tells the story. The three have been close friends ever since.

Efforts to reach Jarrett for comment on Friday night were unsuccessful, but in a Chicago Tribune interview for another article, she offered optimistic predictions for the administration she is helping to build.

She said she thinks the Obama White House will operate with a tolerance for opposing views, and with a civil tone in dealing with Congress and with interest groups.

“It’s a tone that goes beyond the Cabinet,” she said. “It’s the approach he’ll use in reaching out to Congress. The grass-roots campaign we ran was about galvanizing the American people. This is that time of unity.”


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