Obama Aide: Media Is Guessing With Cabinet Short Lists
By Kevin Merida
Valerie Jarrett, transition co-chairman for President-elect Barack Obama, told an organization of black columnists today to be wary of published reports and speculation about Cabinet appointments.
"There isn't a single name on that list that you've heard from President-elect Obama," Jarrett told the Trotter Group in an hour-long interview session in Washington. "There's not a single name on that list that you've heard from me, or from John Podesta or from Pete Rouse," referring to the three co-chairs of Obama's transition.
"Or, now from Rahm Emanuel. So the five people who actually do know the names on the list, you haven't spoken to," Jarratt said. "So what I think you see in the newspaper is what everybody speculates. ... My guess is they're speculating on the people who are most commonly thought of."
Jarrett's answer was in response to a question about how diverse Obama's cabinet would be, based on the names being prominently circulated.
"President-elect Obama, as should be no surprise to anyone in this room, would like his cabinet to be diverse -- both in terms of race, in terms of perspective, in terms of party, in terms of geography," she said. "So he is looking to have a cross-section of America. Spending the amount of time with him I do, I can assure you this is something front and center of his mind. Not because it's the politically expedient thing to do, but because he would make better decisions by having diversity."
Jarrett signaled there may even be a new kind of Democratic Party under Obama's presidency.
"He ran as a Democrat. He believes in the Democratic values," she said. "But I think what he is saying is that the Democratic Party can change its shape, and that people who have not found affiliations with that party before can find it now, and that it can be a home for Republicans and independents too. I don't know if it means we change the title or you just focus more on how to solve the problems than focusing on whether you're a Republican or Democrat."
She indicated that some of the old ideological labels would be buried, saying, "When you start to use the kind of language, left or right or centrist, you begin to polarize us and that has been destructive in the past."
Of her own role in an Obama administration, or outside of it, Jarrett would only say that right now she is "putting all of my energy" into her role as one of three transition co-chairs.
"Whether ultimately I end up joining the administration or serving in some other capacity, I frankly haven't had the time to focus on yet," said Jarrett. "He is my dear friend. I would do anything the President of the United States asked me to do."
According to a report by Chicago's WLS-TV, Obama favors Jarrett for his Illinois Senate seat. Jarrett, a close friend of Obama and his wife Michelle, would not discuss deliberations about any specific appointment. Asked if she had ruled out anything, she said: "I leave it in his hands, his very capable hands. ... So we'll see, we'll see."
Posted at 7:28 PM ET on Nov 9, 2008
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