Valerie Jarrett Mistakes General for Waiter

The Daily Caller reports an embarrassing incident involving White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett:

According to our tipster, Jarrett was seated at the head table along with several other big-name politicians and a handful of high-ranking military officials. As an officer sporting several stars walked past Jarrett, she signaled for his attention and said, “I’d like another glass of wine.”


White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, who was seated next to Jarret, began “cracking up nervously,” our tipster said, but no one pointed out to Jarrett that the man sporting a chestful of medals was not her waiter.

“The guy dutifully went up and got her a glass of wine, and then came back and gave it to her and took a seat at the table,” our tipster said. “Everyone is in tuxedos and gowns at this thing, but the military people are in full dress uniform.”

All we have is an anonymous tipster to a conservative blogazine, so it’s not the most definitive story in the world.  But it’s certainly plausible.

Jarrett has spent most of her life in Chicago and was educated at Stanford and Michigan Law, so she probably hasn’t spent a great deal of time around the military.  Still, you’d think any reasonably intelligent 54-year-old would be able to distinguish a general in full dress from hotel waitstaff.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    She did not mistake the general for a waiter, her action was either a deliberate display of disdain for the military or a demonstration of her superiority over a military general, or perhaps both.

  2. Robert in SF says:

    Patrick: Oh brother! You are a mess!

  3. Maggie Mama says:

    Methinks the “lady” had one wine too many.

  4. Robert in SF says:

    Well…that, or *if* this story is true, there are plenty of reasonable scenarios that explain and embarassing story such as this case of mistaken identification…such as:
    She was seated at the head table, as the anonymous “tipster” says, and therefore she has her back to anyone passing by to their seat, and seeing the uniform out the corner of her eye, she tries to catch what she thinks is the waiter, and doesn’t really turn around fully to the man, because she’s in the middle of a point/conversation to someone beside her. The story also doesn’t tell us what happens afterward, such as her apology, and the officer and her laughing off the incident, knowing that is was a simple case of mistaken identity and not some imagine slight against the military, America, or those in public service.

  5. tom p says:

    Me thinks the lady saw someone out of the corner of her eye walking behind her and assumed it was a waiter.

    The General showed pure class.

  6. bandit says:

    Give her the benefit of the doubt – a criminal slumlord doesn’t really care who brings the wine

  7. Fausta says:

    Still, you’d think any reasonably intelligent 54-year-old would be able to distinguish a general in full dress from hotel waitstaff.

    Operative word: reasonably intelligent.

    Or maybe she was trying to pick him up?

  8. TG Chicago says:

    Those saying that this proves Jarrett hates the military: doesn’t it just as convincingly prove that the anonymous tipster hates the military? The tipster named Jarrett and Goolsbee, but not the general involved in the incident.

    Of course, maybe the general *was* the tipster, and maybe it was he who misunderstood what was going on.

  9. Kenny says:

    Good thing the general was an officer and a gentleman.

  10. Maggie Mama says:

    Hey, Kenny, we can’t be sure if the General really was an officer and a gentleman because it’s possible he called her “Ma’am” rather than “Senior Advisor” when he handed her the wine!
    We all know what a “faux pas” that is with liberal women.

  11. Armitage says:

    Don’t like Jarrett, but this doesn’t pass the smell test. I’ve been at dinner events where one person is getting up to seek something and asks if others want it too, or the conversation at the table centers on something not being delivered to the table and out of politeness someone goes off to ask for it and another chimes in with a similar request. This really seems like one of Jarrett’s enemies in the White House trying to start something, and ignorance of the military is always a strong meme to play.

  12. reid says:

    What an important post this is. Did I enter the wingnut blogosphere by accident?

  13. Jeff says:

    Actually an Air Force Mess dress looks very much like a waiter’s outfit, especially from the side or back where you would not see epaulets or ribbons. I was mistaken for a waiter when I wore mine at a formal event on a cruise ship a few years back.

  14. IP727 says:

    reid says:
    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 12:36
    What an important post this is. Did I enter the wingnut blogosphere by accident?

    Your side misses no chance to hammer palin for the same kind of faux pas.
    Can’t take it when the shoe is on the other foot?

  15. IP727 says:

    Hillary showed this kind of disdain regularly for the military.

  16. reid says:

    IP727: I don’t play “sides”. I encourage you to rise above idiotic partisan junk like this. Judging from your following post, though, I’m not going to get far.

  17. reid says:

    By the way, I’m surprised James would bother with this. It seems like something one of the more far-right, infrequent posters here would do.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @reid: It’s an amusing, interesting story filed under Quick Picks. We do these sorts of posts all the time, pointing out faux paxs from all corners of the political arena.

    I’m not claiming Jarrett hates the military, but rather chalking it up to a disconnect between parts of our political elite from the military.

  19. reid says:

    James: If you say so. To me, it looks more like you’re chumming the right-wing waters with an unsubstantiated, trivial hit piece on someone from the administration. What’s next, freeze-frames of Obama bowing too low? I don’t mean to be overly picky, but there’s so much garbage like this on the internet all ready, and I hate to see you join in.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    “I’m not claiming Jarrett hates the military, but rather chalking it up to a disconnect between parts of our political elite from the military.”

    Assuming, of course, that any of it is even true…I guess it is easy to get all riled up over things which bolster one’s preconceived notions…

  21. MSGHart says:

    It’s too bad we no longer have the likes of a GEN Patton. I can only imagine what he would have done to this looser. Had it been me, I would have dutifully pissed in her glass and poured it over her head.

  22. Rick Kent says:

    This is what comes from Affirmative Action.

  23. Jerry B says:

    It was the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff, General Chiarelli (4 Stars, he has earned respect through duty to country) and he did show class for not making a scene. Now would Ms Jarrett have shown the same class if someone had mistaken her for a waitress, highly unlikely. As to her reasoning behind the “mistake” she says she didn’t have her glasses on, and that all she saw was the striped pants. Hmmmm if she wasn’t wearing her glasses how did she notice the stripped pants? All seems very fishy to me!