Welcome to Single Mom Nation: In 2014 Acknowledge the Matriarchs Who Really Run America
Last year I had a shift in my ideological interpretation of the political and cultural worlds. A theory for your consideration:
The First Lady was talking about healthy foods as part of her ongoing Let's Move! initiative and made the slip when she was discussing how the demands of raising a family can leave little time for nutritious cooking.
'Believe me, as a busy single mother,' Obama said, before quickly correcting herself, 'Or I shouldn't say single - as a busy mother.'
Her remarks came the same day that the President was criticized for remarking that California's Kamala Harris is the 'best looking attorney general' in the country.
Barack Obama in December of 2013, taking a "selfie" at Nelson Mandela's memorial with the Prime Minister of Denmark, much to the annoyance of his wife:
Selfie for British PM David Cameron, Danish PM Helle Thorning Schmidt & Barack Obama during #MandelaMemorial #AFP pic.twitter.com/FqhNIliXzJ
— AFP Photo Department (@AFPphoto) December 10, 2013
The President's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in 2009 describing their relationship to The New York Times:
“We have kind of a mind meld,” Jarrett told me about Obama. “And chances are, what he wants to do is what I’d want to do.”
Valerie Jarrett speaking to a lay Episcopal gathering on September 21 2011:
We have to give people a livelihood so that they can provide for their families. And its a vision, I think his is a moral vision, it’s a vision based very deeply in values. And taking care of the least of these, and making sure that we are creating a country that is a country for everybody not just for the very very wealthy. We are working hard to lift people up out of poverty and give them a better life, and a footing, and that’s what government is suppose to do.
Eleanor Clift wrote about Jarrett's history as a single mother and her relationship with Michelle Obama in 2010:
After First Lady Michelle Obama, who has made work-and-family balance one of her priorities both personally and professionally, Jarrett is a favorite ambassador to the many women's groups that dot the nation's capital, and indeed the country. Settling into a comfortable chair on a riser at a reception sponsored by the International Women's Forum, Jarrett revealed that as a single mother, she felt like "I was holding on by my finger tips," even though she had an enviable support system with her parents living just blocks away in Chicago. Her father took her daughter to school every day from kindergarten through high school, an admission that drew nods of amazement from the crowd of women.
In 1991, when her daughter was 5, Jarrett was pulling long hours working for Mayor Richard Daley. She hired a young lawyer named Michelle Robinson who had just become engaged to Barack Obama. A friendship was born along with a political partnership as Jarrett, a few years older and very savvy in the ways of Chicago, ushered the couple into the city's power structure. Jarrett and Obama had a lot in common, each having spent part of their formative years living abroad. Jarrett was born in Iran, where her father was a doctor. She attended an elite boarding school in New England before getting a Bachelor's degree from Stanford and a law degree from University of Michigan. Whip smart and seemingly fearless, she has been called Obama's "north star," keeping his political trajectory on course and staying close to the family in the White House.
Her daughter is 24 now and well on her way, but Jarrett hasn't forgotten those days, and how hard it can be to raise children even when you have a family to back you up.
Andrew Stiles at National Review in November of 2013, in perhaps the best portrait of Jarrett yet written at article length:
Jarrett’s critics have no dearth of examples. She has been variously described by her critics within the Obama administration as the “Night Stalker,” on account of her general ruthlessness, as well as her tendency to follow the president into the White House residence after hours; “She Who Must Not Be Challenged”; and Obama’s “Rasputin.” Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who clashed often with Jarrett, likened her and senior aide Peter Rouse to Saddam Hussein’s maniacal sons, Uday and Qusay.
Over the past several years, a clearer picture of Jarrett’s role has emerged thanks to the plethora of books and articles published about the inner workings of the Obama White House. She is equal parts fangirl and enforcer, inspiring fear and envy in her (many) detractors, a true believer who was in on the ground floor of the Obama Cult and will be the last to leave.
Jarrett’s personal friendship with the president and first lady dates back more than two decades, before the couple was married, and before Barack Obama launched his political career in Chicago. The president has said he views her “like a sibling” and trusts her “completely.” As result, she enjoys “unlimited, almost mystical access” to the president, write Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, and is known as “The Keeper of the Essence,” the “defender, protector, and avenger” of all things Obama.
I spent much of the past few years reading books and editing articles that sought to explain who Barack Obama really was and what he believed and thus what he was trying to do with this country we love. I read the books he read when he was in his 20s, studied the mentors who taught him, and tried to make some sense of his life experience. But for what? I was wasting my time. We all were.