Thinking Citizen Blog — Sunday is Political Process, Campaign Strategy, and Candidate Selection Day
Today’s Topic: Who is Biden’s Valerie Jarrett?
Who is the most important adviser to President Biden? Who will have the strongest influence on his decision-making in the next four years? To be honest, I had no idea who played that role for Obama until many years into his first presidency. Her name was Valerie Jarrett. Her job was “senior adviser to the President.” She held it from 2009 to 2017. Under Trump that role was played by Ivanka Trump from 2017 to 2021. Under George W. Bush that position was held by Karl Rove from 2001 to 2007. This job can be de facto much more important than that of Vice President or any single Cabinet office but it does not require Senate confirmation. So who is the second most important person in the US today? I did not know his name a week ago. It is Mike Donilon. He has advised Biden since 1981. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
CHIEF STRATEGIST OF THE 2020 BIDEN PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
1. The message was simple. And guess what? It had three prongs — namely
a.) “that the election was about the ‘soul of the nation’; b.) “that the threatened middle class was the ‘backbone of the nation’; c.) and that what was most needed was to ‘unify the nation.’
2. “Only Biden could restore the nation’s soul, repair its backbone, and unify it.”
3. “This is really about character and values as opposed to issues and ideology.” (Donilon)
PREVIOUS CAMPAIGNS HE HAD WORKED ON — Wilder (Virginia), Wofford (PA), Clinton (1992)
1. Wilder was the first African American governor of a US state.
2. Wofford’s victory in his 1991 Senate campaign against former Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburgh was one of the biggest upsets of the last 50 years. Wofford had trailed by up to 40 percentage points but he won by ten.
3. During the 2008 election campaign Donilon served as Biden’s adviser and debate coach. After the election he was appointed counselor to Vice President Biden.
NB: Donilon has a law degree from Georgetown. His brother Tom was a National Security Adviser to President Obama. Tom’s wife, Caroline Russell was Jill Biden’s chief of staff during the first Obama administration and is now the director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office. Mike Donilon has also served as managing director of the Biden Institute, a research and policy center at the University of Delaware, where he was also an assistant professor.
HOW POWERFUL IS MIKE DONILON?
1.“Donilon is the last person to look at every speech or presidential communication before it goes to Biden’s desk, his colleagues say.”
2. “Staffers know he can help them gauge how Biden will feel about something, because the two are always in sync.”
3. “He often talks last in the daily morning meeting for senior staff, steering the big picture back to the fore.”
NB: “His voice is quiet, but when he speaks, everyone listens.” (Valerie Biden Owens, the President’s sister). Biden and Donilon “speak the same language.”
Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme: