Top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett threw down the gauntlet for Congress: Pass the president's jobs bill, or face the consequences.
"What we know is that if they do act, we are going to see growth. We are going to see job creation," Jarrett said at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday. "If they don't act, we don't know what's going to happen, but we know it won't be as good as if they do act."
Asked whether the votes are there, Jarrett said, "We'll see." When the Senate takes up the bill next week, "Everybody gets to see where folks stand."
Jarrett, a longtime close friend of President Obama, acknowledged that turning the economy around has been harder than his administration anticipated. She laid the blame on the Bush administration and the "mess" the president "inherited," and said Obama's reelection strategy will hinge on emphasizing that he has done the best he could under the circumstances.
"People would wish that he had a magic wand and could turn things around overnight, but we can't," she said. "Part of our process is to tell this story about how hard this was going to be, and it turned out to be much harder than any of the economists would have predicted."
She also said the administration hasn't done a good enough job getting the message out about its accomplishments. And she acknowledged that Obama is frequently exasperated by the politics that often overshadow policy debates. "There is a frustration -- I sensed [it] from him even in his earliest days in the state Senate," she said.
Despite external calls for a White House shakeup in response to Obama's sinking approval ratings -- Democratic consultant James Carville famously called for mass firings recently -- Jarrett said the mood remains calm and optimistic. And the president, she said, has not been smoking.
"His ability to kind of kick that terrible habit is terrific," she said. "I don't think he's been doing any sneaking."