With Critical Valerie Jarrett Profile, New York Times Still Covers President Obama's Left Flank

A Sunday front-page profile of Obama's top aide Valerie Jarrett by the New York Times' Jo Becker, "The Other Power in the West Wing," was not uniformly positive, but did provide useful cover for her boss by painting Jarrett as pushing the president toward "first principles," which just happen to include (left-wing) priorities like gay marriage and government-funded birth control. But don't call Barack Obama a liberal! (The paper has long insisted he's a moderate and pragmatist.)

Becker opened by reminding readers how "President Obama was in a bind" during last fall's controversy over requiring religious employers to cover birth control, then skillfully wrote around the word "liberal," which in a balanced new story would appear right below the word "counterweight" in the sentence below:

Ms. Jarrett often serves as a counterweight to the more centrist Clinton veterans in the administration, reminding them and her innately cautious boss that he came to Washington to do big things. Some of his boldest moves, on women’s issues, gay rights and immigration, have been in areas she cares about most. If Karl Rove was known as George W. Bush’s political brain, Ms. Jarrett is Mr. Obama’s spine.

Becker had some interesting tidbits and personal criticism of Jarrett herself.

.... she can also be imperious -- at one event ordering a drink from a four-star general she mistook for a waiter -- and attached to the trappings of power in a way some in the White House consider unseemly for a member of the staff. A case in point is her full-time Secret Service detail. The White House refuses to disclose the number of agents or their cost, citing security concerns. But the appearance so worried some aides that two were dispatched to urge her to give the detail up....Ms. Jarrett seems to be more of a lightning rod for complaints of White House insularity and a thin-skinned response to detractors. She is widely blamed for the president’s soured relationship with the business community.

Discussing how Jarrett pushed for Obama to appoint Hispanic justice Sonia Sotomayor and for gay marriage and other "civil rights" issues, Becker again actively worked to deny Obama his well-earned liberal label:

It was quintessential Valerie Jarrett, according to Ms. Dunn. It is not so much that she is Mr. Obama’s liberal id. Rather, her voice is often the one at the table reminding everyone of the president’s aspirational “first principles,” that he “didn’t just come to the White House to hold the office, but to make change,” Ms. Dunn said.

That has been particularly true when it comes to diversity and issues she considers matters of civil rights.

Gay rights advocates say they considered Ms. Jarrett their “secret weapon” in the White House on issues like repealing the military’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And while aides said Mr. Obama found his own way toward supporting same-sex marriage, Ms. Jarrett “reinforced his instincts,” Mr. Axelrod said. This is consistent with who you are, she told the president.