Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Defends Joe Biden In Conversation About Her Memoir The longtime Obama adviser told NPR's Audie Cornish that former Vice President Joe Biden "got it right" when he said "it's important that men listen" in a wide-ranging interview about her new book.
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Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Defends Biden, Talks 2020 In Conversation About Memoir

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Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett Defends Biden, Talks 2020 In Conversation About Memoir


Valerie Jarrett, the longtime adviser to President Obama - she knows a thing or two about what makes for a winning candidate. So when I sat down with her to talk about her new memoir, I wanted to look toward this next election. I started off by asking her about a 2020 story that's been in the news a lot these last few days - accusations of inappropriate contact by former Vice President Joe Biden.

VALERIE JARRETT: I had the honor of working with Joe Biden every single day for eight years, and I have an enormous amount of respect for him. And I saw him be extraordinarily demonstrative to both men and women alike, and never did I take it as a sexual advance in any way. But I think he got it right over the weekend when he said it's important that men listen. And...

CORNISH: But have the politics changed so much for the party? I mean, Al Franken is not in office right now, right...

JARRETT: I think...

CORNISH: ...Because of how the party now views this issue of inappropriateness and misconduct.

JARRETT: I think the culture of our country has changed, and politics is a piece of that. But more importantly - and I think we have enormous debt of gratitude to the brave women in the #MeToo moment who came forward with their voices. And there is safety in numbers. And I think what men are recognizing is it isn't just a matter of what their intent was. It's a matter of, how was it perceived by the person, and that the way our society and our culture will change is if we are listening to one another better and if we are recognizing the impact of our actions on others. And so I was heartened to see the vice president acknowledge that over the weekend and say, we have to begin listening. And I agree. Time is up.

CORNISH: The problem is, I think, for Democrats that the voters could then turn to you and say, we think this behavior is disqualifying.

JARRETT: The great part about our democracy is every voter gets to decide that for themselves. We all get to look at the facts and see them through the lens that is valuable to us and then make decisions accordingly. One of the things that President Obama used to say - I remember in the early days of Iowa - is that, look; you have to earn it. You have to be willing to let people come in and see you, your faults, your weaknesses, your strengths, your vision, your track record. And then they get to make the decision, and we have to put our trust and confidence in them. And the piece that I'm interested in right now is making sure that every American appreciates the important of that voice and votes.

CORNISH: What's your advice for these 2020 candidates, especially who - they're essentially looking to capture the coalition of voters that Barack Obama and your campaign with him was able to do, right? And now there is a question about whether the party can really do that, or do they have to choose, right? They're mired in this question about identity politics versus the white working class vote or more progressive politics versus a kind of centrism. He seemed to straddle a lot of these ideas. What can...

JARRETT: I think...

CORNISH: Is that possible now?

JARRETT: Yes, and I think what President Obama did, which I encourage all the candidates to do, is to take a view of our country that's inclusive, where you reach out to everyone. Politics should not be about the politician. Politics should be about service. And people recognize - I think they can see through, in many instances, where people are not authentic.

CORNISH: But wasn't he kind of...

JARRETT: And they crave authenticity.

CORNISH: ...The ultimate cult of personality candidate? I mean, Barack Obama was a - almost a concept - right? - an idea in - that was - that people thought symbolized many things.

JARRETT: And I think that there's still opportunities in the future to do that broad reach, to connect with people the way he was able to do. And I think we're very early in the primary season. I think that Democrats have an embarrassment of riches. We have lots of great candidates who are on the field. I've met with several of the candidates and given them my counsel. And the one thing I've said to all of them that I would say publicly is that - keep your eye on the long view, and that is the general election. And don't so beat up each other in the primary. If we focus on - you know, stating our affirmative case, I think the candidates are at their strongest, and certainly, I would say this about Barack Obama. He spent most of his time talking about what his vision was, what he would bring to the country, how he would improve the lives of the American people. And I think that there is still room in the hearts of the American people for that candidate.

CORNISH: Valerie Jarrett weighing in on the 2020 landscape. She shares more of her life story elsewhere in the show.

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