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The Magic of Leaked Memos

July 3, 2013

Supposedly, people in the White House are told when they start working there that you shouldn't put anything down on paper or email that you wouldn't like to see on the front page of The Washington Post. Not only are lots of documents subject to open records laws, they can be subpoenaed by Congress or a court, or much more likely, just get leaked by one of your co-workers. So you'd think White House staff would exercise some care when it comes to memo writing.

Alas, they apparently do not. The time is ripe for some juicy behind-the-scenes tales from the Obama administration, which we'll apparently be getting from This Town, an upcoming book from New York Times Magazine reporter Mark Leibovich. In an excerpt released (leaked?) today, we learn that some staffers circulated a memo with talking points for people to repeat about senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a longtime confidant of the President's who hasn't exactly been the most popular person on Pennsylvania Avenue. There's nothing particularly wrong with that in and of itself, but if you were assigned this task, you'd probably have the sense not to title your memo "The Magic of Valerie" and have it include stuff like this:

The magic of Valerie is her intellect and her heart. She is an incredibly kind, caring and thoughtful person with a unique ability to pinpoint the voiceless and shine a light on them and the issues they and the President care about with the ultimate goal of making a difference in people's lives.

Valerie is the perfect combination of smart, savvy and innovative.

Valerie has an enormous capacity for both empathy and sympathy. She balances the need to be patient and judicious with the desire to get things done and work as hard as possible for the American people from the White House.

To know what both drives Valerie Jarrett and why the President values her opinion so much, you benefit greatly from really getting to know the woman.

Valerie is tapped in to people's experiences, their good times and bad. She knows from her own life what it is like to believe and strive for your dreams.

Valerie expects people to work their hearts out for the President and never forget where you work and the magnitude.

Single mother, woman working to the top in a competitive male dominated world, African, working for change from the grassroots to big business.

Valerie is someone here who other people inside the building know they can trust. (need examples.)

Not for them the tired cliches of "Valerie is working hard for the president and the American people." I've worked with some fine people over the years, but obviously no one like Jarrett. She apparently shines like the very sun.

I can only conclude that this was actually written by someone who despises Jarrett and wanted to make her into a laughingstock, and was leaked by someone who held in her in equal contempt. What I can't understand is why, once it was written, someone who had both authority and a modicum of sense didn't set about to destroy every paper copy and bit of electronic evidence that such a ghastly thing had ever existed in the first place.

I suppose it says something about our fundamental human fallibility that every administration, Democrat and Republican, contains its share of idiots.

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