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Interview with White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett

Interview with White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett

By The Situation Room - October 21, 2010

WOLF BLITZER: The president's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's talk about this, but before we do I want to play this clip because former U.S. Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, a West Point grad, served in Iraq, an Arabic linguist, he was on "AMERICAN MORNING" here on CNN earlier this morning after you were on CNN, and he had some strong words. He's deeply distressed about the Obama administration and what is going on as far as gays serving openly in the U.S. military.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LT. DAN CHOI, DISCHARGED UNDER "DADT": I just heard Valerie Jarrett talk to you guys and I'm so absolutely upset at the things that she could be saying at this moment.

Yesterday, when President Obama, after "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been dead for a week, no enormous consequences, no people quitting the military because of honest soldiers, and all of a sudden you see this president want to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to discrimination and injustice.

Valerie Jarrett said that gay people, some of us should try to understand the politics and that we are a nation of laws. Well we understand that, we don't need a lecture from Valerie Jarrett on that. Civics, day one, American government, checks and balances, when Congress enacts a law that's unconstitutional who strikes it down? The courts.

I understand the judicial branch is the only branch of government is fulfilling its mandate to the Constitution. And that the president is not able to do that upsets me. I'm resentful, absolutely.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: But do you understand the administration's position? That they say that they're committed to repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" but they want to do it through Congress --

CHOI: No they're not.

ROBERTS: -- they don't want to do it through the courts.

CHOI: I don't think they're committed at all.

(CROSSTALK) ROBERTS: You think this is just lip service?

CHOI: I think this is just politics. This is a midterm election calculation from the politicians in the White House and the administration.

ROBERTS: So you don't trust them.

CHOI: I do not.

And actually, at this point I have a message for Valerie Jarrett and all those people that are -- those politicians in the White House, you've lost my trust. You've lost my trust and I'm not going to vote for Barack Obama after what he did yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You know, you hear that from a lot of activists in the gay community right now. They're very, very upset.

VALERIE JARRETT, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Listen, Wolf, first of all, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me on. And this is an important issue and I'd like to just address it directly.

The president has said that during his term in office, as soon as possible, he would like Congress to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." It's legislation that was passed by Congress. He can't simply sign an executive order to revoke it or he would have. And so, we're asking Congress to repeal it.

And until then, the justice Department has no choice but to defend the laws that are on the books and that's what the Justice Department is doing. But we want it to end and end as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Can -- one legal scholar suggested today that perhaps the president could go ahead do what he needs to do, but at the same time make it clear to everyone that he thinks this law is unconstitutional.

JARRETT: He has done that. He did that as recently as last week when he was at a town hall meeting. He said he thinks that this law should be absolutely repealed. He doesn't believe in this law.

He agrees that there are gay men and women serving in our military, proudly defending our country, putting their life on the line every single day and that this law has no place in country. But it is an act of Congress and Congress should repeal it.

BLITZER: But as you know, after the elections, almost certainly there are going to more Republicans and conservatives in the new Congress than in the current Congress. So here's --

JARRETT: This shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue.

BLITZER: It shouldn't be, but it could be between liberals and conservatives.

Here's the question -- will you push for repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" during the lame duck session?

JARRETT: I know that the president has said he wants it repealed as quickly as possible. I think if you look at any kind of surveys, the vast majority of American people want it to be repealed, so it shouldn't be a partisan issue and we do fully intend to push forward.

And we share the frustration of people who think it should be done right away. We wish it that it had been done sooner, but we are determined to get it done.

BLITZER: So if Dan Choi were here, what would you say to him cause you can see how upset he is?

JARRETT: I appreciate his frustration. I share his frustration. And I understand that for somebody who has served proudly in the military that he thinks that this is an outrage. We think this is an outrage, too, and we think that focus should be directed at Congress. Cause Congress is the one that passed it in the first place, Congress is the one who should repeal it.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about this new Gallup poll.

Fifty-four percent in this new poll say they don't think the president should be reelected right now, that he doesn't deserve to be re-elected. What's happened over these past two years?

JARRETT: We are a long way before the president's election is up and so I think our focus should be on the midterms now.

But the fact of the matter is our country has been through an economic crisis. Lots of people have lost their jobs. It's more sluggish than we would want, but we are certainly moving in the right direction. But until every single person can feel it in their own household, they will have frustration and they're going to have anger.

And we share that frustration and anger, but let's put in context, Wolf. When the president took office, we had just lost in the prior six months 4 million jobs. His first month over 750,000 jobs. The next month, 600,000 jobs.

But what we have seen in the last nine months is nine straight months of private sector job growth --

BLITZER: Do you think over the next two years, between now and the 2012 election, the economy, the unemployment, all of that will significantly improve?

JARRETT: Well I'm not the economist, but what I can assure you we're going to do is every single day we are going to be moving to push it forward in the right direction.

You've seen over the last couple months the president has announced several new initiatives to stimulate the economy. There are over 3 million people working today who would have lost their jobs had it not been for the Recovery Act. The Small Business Tax Bill will reduce the cost for small businesses so that they can grow and expand.

Our efforts to try to invest in research and development and new forms of technology and partnering with the private sector, our community colleges will be revamped to try to help have the private sector help us design the curriculum so that there will be real jobs at the end of those programs.

So we have a wide range of initiatives, not the least of which are the ones we talked about today targeted to women.

BLITZER: Let's talk about that, cause this new report that you have suggests there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure women are on the same playing field, earn the same amount for the equal amount of work that men do.

Right now, women still earn only about 80 cents for about every dollar that a man earns for exactly the same job. I know the president signed certain legislation into law already. Give me one example of what else the president can do right now to improve the situation for women.

JARRETT: Well let's just take a step back and make sure that everybody has the facts.

As you said, women earn 77 cents on the dollar. Also importantly, two-thirds of families now are either headed by a single mom or have two working adults in the household. So the contribution that women are making is more important than ever but yet, it's still not an even playing field.

If you look at the Recovery Act, the Small Business Act, the great resources that our SBA Administration is putting into women- owned businesses, 12,000 loans already leveraging $3 billion worth of capital to small businesses, and we know from many studies that capital is important for all small businesses, but particularly for women. So we have a wide range of initiatives and we're not going to stop at that.

The SBA is looking to expand their programs. We had a symposium, a forum in the White House about a month ago where we focused on women entrepreneurship and what could we do to provide them the tools need to expand.

And we also had a forum several months ago on work place flexibility. A lot of women in the work force have challenges balancing the work life. Men do, too. What the report we released then showed is that employers who provide flexibility actually have more productivity.

So we have a wide range of initiatives and we're always looking for more to help women be in the work force, start their own businesses, thrive and grow and contribute to our economy.

BLITZER: I hope you're earning the same as a male senior adviser to the president.

JARRETT: We all make the same under this president. I can assure you of that.

BLITZER: I hope there's no discrepancy.

JARRETT: There's no discrepancy in the White House.

BLITZER: Are you sure?

JARRETT: I'm positive.

BLITZER: All right then. We will double check as well.

Valerie Jarrett, thanks very much for coming in.

JARRETT: My pleasure. Thank you, Wolf.

 

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