New York Times: Obama's friends form strategy for staying tight-knit
By Jodi Kantor
Published: December 13, 2008
Last Sunday night, President-elect Barack Obama's three closest friends — Martin Nesbitt, Eric Whitaker and Valerie Jarrett — sat down in the study of Nesbitt's house in Chicago for one of their increasingly frequent heart-to-hearts.
They were puzzling over a new question: how the Obamas, who hope to remain close to their Chicago friends, will spend time with them while living in the isolation chamber of the White House. Over Diet Cokes, the three drafted the beginnings of an elaborate visiting schedule that will bring Hyde Park to Washington, so the First Family can have a little taste of home.
"O.K, Eric, you need to plan to be in DC the first six weekends of the presidency," Jarrett, soon to be a senior White House adviser, instructed Whitaker, he recalled.
In the presidential campaign, the Obamas had a "no new friends" rule, surrounding themselves with a coterie of familiar faces. Even if the Obamas lift that rule in Washington, newcomers are unlikely to replicate the intensity of this group's ties, formed over more than a decade by births and deaths, Scrabble games, barbecues and vacations, but also by shared beliefs about race, success and responsibility.
Back when the Obamas were hardly the most prominent members of the group, the doctors, lawyers and businessmen from Chicago became not just one another's friends but also one another's supporters, forming a network that eventually helped the politician among them on his way to a Senate seat and then the presidency. Their bonds grew only tighter in the long slog of the campaign.