If you want to know where the White House’s head is at, you need to take a look at who is sitting in the First Lady’s box tonight during the State of the Union, and who is not.
The only senior White House staffer who will have an honored position with Michelle is senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s consigliere from Chicago.
Jarrett and Michelle are the keepers of the liberal flame within the White House, the anti-moderation crowd who remind President Obama what his core convictions are when he gets sidetracked by White House dealmakers.
Jarrett has outlasted those with whom she has clashed, including departing Chief of Staff William Daley and former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, both pragmatic Washington insiders.
She has emerged unscathed from the report in a recent book about her confrontation with ex-Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, in which she said – quite possibly falsely – that Michelle was unhappy with his handling of a matter involving something Michelle supposedly confided to French First Lady.
Gibbs, another Washington-based pragmatist, said he never took Jarrett seriously as an Obama adviser again. Soon enough after the event, he was gone.
It is already clear the White House will be running a campaign based on liberal values and in opposition to a “do nothing” Congress. The sight of Michelle and Jarrett together as he delivers his State of the Union speech is a clear sign that this will be a year of undiluted liberal orthodoxy.
One more sign? This will be the fourteenth State of the Union address I’ve covered. It’s the first one I can remember in which the White House director of legislative affairs, the person responsible for driving the president’s agenda in Congress, will not be in the first lady’s box.
Because this year, he won’t be needed.