Valerie Jarrett, one of President-elect Barack Obama's closest confidantes, said today she's not interested in taking his US Senate seat, but did not close the door to a Cabinet post.
"I'm actually not interested in the Senate position," Jarrett said this evening on "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" on PBS. "What I've said to President-elect Obama, you know -- as you know, he's a very dear friend. He knows me well. And just as all Americans, I'm happy to serve my country at the pleasure of the president in any way he deems fit."
Jarrett also said that the transition is on schedule. "President-elect Obama hit the ground running Wednesday morning right after our celebration here in Chicago Tuesday evening. He announced his co-chair, as you know, last week. He also announced his chief of staff. He released today the names of the lead people who are working on the agency reviews of the Defense Department, State Department, Treasury Department. He's had two meetings already with his economic advisers, and he's moving forward, studying all of the agencies throughout the federal government, and beginning his search for the best and the brightest to lead the different agencies and to work in the White House."
Asked whether there could be real change given the number of former Clinton administration members already filling jobs during the transition and in the mix for top administration jobs, Jarrett replied, "Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think, as you see his administration take form, you're going to see people from the Clinton administration, you're going to see people from all around our country, you're going to see Republicans, you're going to see a variety of different perspectives.
"But I think what you're going to see most importantly is his leadership, which is about bringing our country together and taking talent wherever you find it. And it's his leadership that will change the direction of our country...
Jarrett also said while fixing the economy will be the top priority when Obama takes office in January, he still plans to follow through on major, sweeping campaign promises.
"If you think about the tax cut, that's part of how we have to jump-start the middle class. If you look at the act that Congress could hopefully take next week, an infrastructure bill, get people back to work, invest in our roads, in our bridges, our schools, provide support to state and local government that's desperately needed," she said.
"The energy crisis is key, not just in the United States, but around the world. Clearly there's a need for healthcare. And I think that throughout the campaign, what President-elect Obama heard time and time again is the importance of affordable health care for everybody.
"So all of the issues that you outlined are the ones that he embraced in the course of the campaign and that the American people embraced by giving him their support by such a wide margin," she added. "So we have to tackle all of these issues. And it's going to be tough, but the American people are pretty resilient. I think he made it clear there's going to be a lot of sacrifice that's going to have to be had all the way around, but together our country, if we're all working together in a bipartisan way, we're confident we can move the country forward."
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.