Greatest Boss Ever

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These are the first-person memoirs of 18 Obama administration mid-level staffers. However don’t get your hopes up for dirt-dishing about what it was truly prefer to work for the 44th President, or for his notoriously abrasive and foul-mouthed first chief of employees, Rahm Emanuel (currently mayor of Chicago), or for She Who Should Be Obeyed, a.ok.a. “senior advisor” Valerie Jarrett, who not solely had limitless entry to the President and First Woman however managed and patrolled everybody else’s. 

West Wingers: Tales From the Dream Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Contained in the Obama White Home just isn’t that type of e book. You’ll be able to open it at random, as I did, and you’ll learn solely that the President “earned” his function “by caring for others and listening to the voices of people that usually aren’t heard”; that “the factor I cherished about Obama was his crystal readability, his notorious calm, his love and devotion to taking the lengthy view”; and that Michelle Obama all the time exuded “calm and beauty” and “allowed me to stay in” the “realm of infinite chance.”

No approach particularly will you hear a crucial phrase about Ms. Jarrett on this e book, the place she is ubiquitous and (ostensibly, anyway) ubiquitously beloved. Among the many bouquets for Jarrett scattered all through was this from Brad Jenkins, describing considered one of her quite a few bailiwicks, the Workplace of Public Engagement: She led a “scrappy workforce of neighborhood organizers.” She was “so moved by [the] braveness and dedication” of the “Dreamers” (the unlawful immigrants dropped at America as youngsters, for whom Obama controversially organized deferred deportation in 2012 with out searching for congressional approval), says Cecilia Muñoz, a La Raza veteran who turned White Home director of home coverage. As a boss, Jarrett “labored laborious to create a working surroundings that was sustainable for fogeys with youngsters at dwelling,” says Michael Strautmanis, who was her chief of employees. 

Jarrett herself, from a blurb on the again cowl of this e book: It incorporates “deeply shifting tales” that “present us how hope turns into actual, sustainable change.”

The Empathy Squad

Whether or not or not these tales, every operating to 20 pages or so, will strike the reader the way in which they strike Jarrett will rely upon the previous’s style for narratives by individuals who outline themselves nearly totally by their racial, ethnic, gender, or different traits and by the identity-based ideological causes they promoted throughout the Obama years. Practically each one of many contributors provides a prolonged private profile (Latino, Asian, feminine, Muslim, Native American, homosexual, deaf).

A couple of are intersectionally spectacular, such because the editor of West Wingers, Gautam Raghavan, who served concurrently as Obama’s liaison to the “LGBTQ neighborhood” and likewise as his liaison to the “Asian American and Pacific Islander neighborhood.” Certainly, at the least 5 of the 18 contributors, together with Raghavan himself, served within the Workplace of Public Engagement (it’s now referred to as the Workplace of Public Liaison), whose mission was to attach the President empathetically with all these “communities” and ensure they had been on board for political help of the Democratic Social gathering.

The emphasis on identities and pet causes provides the e book a monotonous tone, as every essayist steps ahead to expostulate, first, on his or her background, after which on his or her success in bending the President’s ear within the desired route. 

For Raghavan the trigger was same-sex marriage. So his piece is all about his personal same-sex marriage, and the function he performed in serving to engineer the Obama “evolution” from opposition in 2008 to full-fledged endorsement in 2012, at which level he was, he says, moved to sob uncontrollably from his perch on the second ground of the West Wing. “The President of the US . . . sees in my relationship with Andy proof of the identical love and dedication that he finds in his marriage,” writes Raghavan in breathless italics—though it’s truly unclear whether or not the President made the change as a result of he was moved by his staffer and his life experiences or whether or not Obama merely licked his finger and held it as much as the wind of attitudinal change.

Equally, the contribution by Rumana Ahmed, one other veteran of the Workplace of Public Engagement, is all about being a hijab-wearing Muslim and the sufferer of rampant post-September 11 Islamophobia. She describes “being cursed at, spat at, referred to as a terrorist, and instructed, ‘Return to the place you got here from.’” This sounds dangerous—till Ahmed informs us that the truth is she was elected student-body president of her overwhelmingly non-Muslim highschool in a liberal suburb in Maryland, graduated from George Washington College in 2011, then went instantly right into a fulltime job within the White Home (Muslim outreach was her bailiwick) after a profitable internship, and was ultimately promoted to a communications arm of the Nationwide Safety Council, the place her capstone expertise appears to have been persuading Obama to go to a mosque.

“Working towards and reaching a second like this felt like breaking by means of years of relentless waves that had tried to drown us out,” writes Ahmed, within the metaphor-mixing prose fashion that’s all too typical of this assortment.

(Of course, with the passing of the presidential baton from Obama to Donald Trump, and the emergence of the rebarbative Consultant Ilhan Omar [D-Minn.] as the brand new, headscarved face of American Islam, that “relentless wave” is extra like “relentless wave interference.” We now have the spectacle of Consultant Omar saying that People have extra to worry from white males than from jihadists; Trump tweeting that she and different left-leaning congresswomen must “return” to their ancestral nations as an alternative of criticizing the US; Senator Rand Paul [R-Ky.] providing to pay Omar’s airfare to her native Somalia; and Omar responding by retweeting a wisecrack about Paul’s “toupee.”)

Contributor Julie Chávez Rodriguez makes hay of her standing because the granddaughter of United Farm Employees founder and Mexican American folks hero César Chávez. It’s “my grandfather” this and “my grandfather” that (he died when she was about 16). Chávez Rodriguez, too, ended up on the Workplace of Public Engagement, as a “liaison to the Latino neighborhood.” 

Taking the Latino-identity cake, nonetheless, is Stephanie Valencia—sure, additionally of the Workplace of Public Engagement, though a number of rungs up the ladder from Chávez Rodriguez. In Valencia’s essay, the phrases “Latino, “Latina,” and, often, “Hispanic” seem on practically each web page, usually in multiples. Her pet venture was—you may need guessed it—getting a Latina (certainly, a “clever Latina”), appointed and confirmed to the Supreme Courtroom, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in 2009. Valencia writes that she “need[s] to be like” Sotomayor, “somebody who cracked glass ceilings for Latinas and instructed us it was okay for us to be who we’re. I need to be somebody who, like her, opens new doorways of alternative and excellence for different Latinas. And I need to be somebody who can flip to a younger Latina who isn’t positive she belongs, and, identical to Sonia has for me, remind her that sure, she does.” 

Even the Puff Pastries Are PC 

Even contributor Invoice Yosses, who, unusually for this quantity, just isn’t an Workplace of Public Engagement alum (he was the White Home pastry chef for each Obama and his GOP predecessor, George W. Bush) feels obliged to drop what first seems to be a refreshingly nonpartisan tackle presidential appreciation for his pies and lapse into speaking up Mrs. Obama’s campaign for “wholesome” consuming and a “nationwide awaking in regards to the essential nature of our meals methods.” As I learn by means of a pattern Obama menu that Yosses helped create, with its record of oh-so-precious dishes and wine pairings—all ready from “the newest experimental natural agricultural strategies and ethically raised livestock”—I couldn’t assist however marvel what the present President, “Two Scoops of Ice Cream” Trump, would have thought. 

There are a number of islands on this lake of corn syrup. Leah Katz-Hernandez, a younger deaf girl who labored first on Mrs. Obama’s communications employees and later as a receptionist within the West Wing, writes movingly about her difficult reactions when her slightly patronizing coworkers in contrast her to Joey Lucas, the fictional deaf political pollster performed by Marlee Matlin on West Wing, the tv sequence. Katz-Hernandez can also be one of many uncommon contributors who shows a real aptitude for prose fashion—though I want she hadn’t declared that considered one of her personal favourite writers was the hack Obama idolater (and, in fact, White Home customer) Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I additionally favored the above-mentioned Brad Jenkins—though I favored his father even higher, described right here as a Fox Information-watching, government-distrusting Military-vet black Republican who laughed uproariously when his son instructed him over the cellphone that he’d gotten a job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The youthful Jenkins got here to the White Home—sure, the Workplace of Public Engagement once more—in 2013 after engaged on the President’s profitable reelection marketing campaign the yr earlier than. Jenkins’s job title was “liaison to the inventive neighborhood.” In sensible phrases, that meant the thankless job of enlisting leisure celebrities to influence underemployed millennials to join Obamacare, then in its nascent phases, so their outsized premiums may subsidize the older and the sicker. 

The coup that Jenkins studies reaching was speaking Boss Jarrett into having President Obama seem on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis, the parody celebrity-interview sequence on the youth-beloved web site funnyordie.com. The March 2014 interview was an enormous success, producing 30 million views in its first week and a powerful variety of click-throughs to the Obamacare web site. The one drawback (which Jenkins skips over) was that precise millennial enrollment in Obamacare continued to lag considerably, till Trump and the GOP Congress in 2017-2018 killed incentives to affix by successfully eliminating the penalties for noncompliance. Nonetheless, you need to give Jenkins credit score for making an attempt.

A Prediction

It’s good to know that the 44th President, his First Woman, and even his senior advisor had been so uncritically adored. However I can’t assist raining just a little cynicism on this adulation parade. The race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency is in shambles proper now, with exhausted ancients resembling Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders battling charmless upstarts resembling Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. Let me right here predict a conference intervention. Whereas the 22nd Modification may bar Barack Obama from a 3rd time period, it says nothing about his partner. And may Michelle Obama turn out to be the 46th commander-in-chief in 2021, she could have a resumé e book of 18 seasoned and, above all, devoted potential staff proper at hand.

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