Valerie Jarrett on President Obama’s New Memoir

It’s a tradition nearly every president has followed: writing a personal account of their time in office. Few have been as eagerly anticipated as Barack Obama’s memoir, “A Promised Land,” which hits the shelves today after a four-year creative process. Valerie Jarrett is a close friend and adviser to Obama. She joins the show to discuss the presidential memoir and our current politics.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I want to go back, because, again, the amazing thing about this book is how personal it is, as well as policy and political. So, again, you were there at the beginning. You knew Michelle Obama. You hired her. Then she introduced you to her fiance. And that’s how you became friends and then senior adviser, and you have been with them all along. So, I want to play this little sound bite that the president was talking to “60 Minutes” about what his wife, Michelle Obama, thought when he decided that his next thing was going to be to run for president.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS: You quote her as saying: “The answer is no. I do not want you running for president. God, Barack, when is it going to be enough?” Did I get the tone right?

OBAMA: Yes, it was a little sharper than that, but it was pretty good, Scott.


PELLEY: And then she walks out of the room. Why did that not stop you?

OBAMA: Look, it’s a legitimate question. Keep in mind the context here. We had — just two years earlier, I’d run for the U.S. Senate in unlikely race. Two years before that, I had run for Congress.

PELLEY: In a race you lost.

OBAMA: In a race I lost. A couple years before that, I had run for the state Senate. We have got two young kids. Michelle’s still working. And I asked myself in the book, how much of this is just megalomania? How much of this is vanity?


AMANPOUR: You know, he’s so introspective. I mean, it’s very funny. It’s very poignant. It’s very personal. But to ask oneself, how much is his vanity, what do you think about that?

JARRETT: Well, I don’t think it was either megalomania or vanity. Having been there in the room when they had those conversations, I think, honestly, he knew that he had something to give this country and that those moments come along, the perfect storm, only once in a while. Would that moment have been there four years from now? Maybe not. But he was the most in-demand senator doing fund-raisers around the country for the Democratic party. His star was at an all-time high. He had given a magnificent speech with — at the Democratic Convention right before he was elected to the Senate. And that obviously increased his notoriety and popularity two years earlier. And I will say she did walk out of the room and say no in that moment. But, ultimately, he would not have done, I don’t believe, if she had not been wanting to get on board. And I think she too recognized her husband had something unique to offer. And we spent a lot of time talking about what the impact would be on them and their family, both the campaign and then also in the White House. And I will say, I think the campaign was, frankly, more stressful than the White House. I describe in my book how, at about 10 minutes after 6:00 every evening, I would start to get nervous in the Oval Office because we knew that dinner was at 6:30. And she expected him to be there. And he could work for countless hours after dinner. But it was our job to make sure that he got home on time, because he had missed those couple years when he was on the campaign trail.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane speaks with former senior adviser to Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett about the former president’s new memoir. She also speaks with chess grandmasters Judit Polgar and Garry Kasparov about the new hit Netflix show “The Queen’s Gambit.” Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics Dan Ariely about the stranger side of human behavior brought on by the pandemic