September 2, 2014

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Top aide to President Obama pays a visit to Lorain

LORAIN — President Barack Obama’s right-hand woman fired up campaign volunteers in Lorain on Thursday.

Valerie Jarrett

“You all know the president started out as a community organizer, so he knows how hard it is,” White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett told about 25 volunteers at the Obama campaign headquarters at 668 Broadway. “He is where he is, standing on your shoulders, as a result of your efforts. And what we’re asking you to do is just dig a little bit deeper for these last five days.”

Jarrett, a politically connected Chicago lawyer, first met Obama in 1991. Jarrett is considered Obama’s oldest friend in the White House, and one of the most politically influential on his team.

A September New York Times profile credited her with convincing Obama to not let Roman Catholic organizations get an exemption from the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, that would have allowed them the right to deny paying for contraception for female employees. Besides conctraception, Jarrett has also championed immigration reform and gay rights.

“If Karl Rove was known as George W. Bush’s political brain, Ms. Jarrett is Mr. Obama’s spine,” the profile said.

In Jarrett’s five-minute speech, she accused Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of scare tactics for saying last week that Chrysler was considering moving Jeep production from Ohio to China. Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne refuted Romney’s claim.

“We’re counting on you to get out there and help us tell the truth,” she said. “You can believe in the president. I know you know that, or you wouldn’t be working so hard on his behalf.”

After the speech, Jarrett refused to say whether Obama would rule out reducing annual Social Security cost of living increases if re-elected.

Some congressional Democrats have worried that Obama might agree to the reduction in lame-duck session negotiations with congressional Republicans to avert $109 billion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled for January. The cuts are part of a 10-year, $1.2 trillion deficit-reduction plan agreed to last year by Obama with Republicans who were threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, triggering a government shutdown.

Jarrett said Obama wants to reduce the approximately $1.1 trillion deficit and $16.2 trillion national debt but was not willing to make cuts that would hurt the middle class or poor. Jarrett said the $716 billion in Medicare reimbursement cuts to insurers and hospitals under ObamaCare were for “exorbitant costs to providers” and have added eight years to Medicare. She said Romney has supported running mate and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which calls for privatizing Medicare.

Regarding what is called the weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression, Jarrett said Senate Republicans threatened a filibuster to block a stimulus bigger than the $819 billion that was passed in 2009.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.