In an exclusive interview on the eve of the critical 2010 midterm elections, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett talks with Huffington Post contributor Earl Ofari Hutchinson about what might happen if the GOP takes back the House. The interview was provided courtesy of New America Media (newamericamedia,org).
Many political pundits predict that the GOP will take over the House. How will the White House deal with that possibility?
VALERIE JARRETT: We don't pay any attention to the pundits. If we listened to them the president would not have run for the presidency since he was considered by most as a long shot. But we had confidence that we could appeal to the American people with a positive program. In any case, the most important poll is the vote on Election Day. We have seen momentum growing the past couple weeks and everywhere the president goes people are reacting positively to him and his message. We've reminded everyone that even though he isn't on the ballot it's important that he have a Congress that he can work with.
What if he doesn't?
VJ: Then we're in jeopardy of going back to where we were when he took office and we had no protection from the excesses and the risks that led to the economic crisis. The Republicans have made it clear that they'd cut spending on education, gut the health care law, get rid of regulatory reform and the consumer protection agency. The Republicans want to and will try to stop everything positive and reverse the progress we've made in the last two years.
President has not done the best job in selling his message of progress and accomplishment and that's been a huge problem.
It's always easier to scare people than inform them and the GOP has done a masterful job of that. They done it starting with the nonsense and falsehoods about death panels during the health care reform debate and they haven't stopped appealing to people's fears. When unemployment is high, people are frustrated and angry and don't understand why we're not in better shape. We have to remind people that we lost millions of jobs before the president took office and that people were suffering then. And even though we've had nine months of job growth it's still hard to get that message across when you have people trying to constantly scare the public.
Many progressives are also frustrated and disenchanted with the President and criticize him for not moving fast enough on sweeping change.
VJ: It's true there is frustration there. The health care fight is a good example where we got 90 percent of what we fought for and people are frustrated about that. But again, we remind them that we got a law that provides coverage for 30 million uninsured, millions of children, eliminates preconditions for coverage and strengthens preventive health care measures. So we have to keep in mind how much we did get. The challenge is to start hearing from people that are reasoned, and pragmatic, rather than simply on the extremes. The president's accomplishments should have great appeal to progressives as well as moderates considering the accomplishments he had of making college more affordable to stressing green jobs growth. We remind the left that we had to fight every step just to get these things.
The Tea Party has pounded President Obama relentlessly and if they have a significant impact on the election, the great concern is that this could push the president to the right?
VJ: Our question to the Tea Party has always been we know what you're against, but what are you for? What would you do differently? They don't have an answer for that. Simply saying cutting government and spending is no answer. What do they say to and do for people whose jobs and unemployment benefits were saved by actions of this administration? What, that they shouldn't have those benefits? Are they really willing to say let's put the American people first?
What can we expect from the president in the final stretch days before the election?
VJ: The president will be in Chicago, and Cleveland at rallies supporting candidates, and others in the administration will be out urging people to recognize that every single vote counts. Many of the races are extremely tight and even though the president's name is not on the ballot, the races are going to depend on the turnout. This is a crucial election for us all.
Thank you and the White House for taking the time to discuss the issues with The Hutchinson Report.
VJ: Thank you for providing the kind of forum that you do. Everyone should be listening to your show. It is constructive, and designed to inform. I want to thank you on behalf of the president and the administration for providing this important vehicle for what's going on.