The NEWSWEEK 50: Obama Aides Axelrod, Jarrett

Harry Truman quipped that true friendship in Washington comes in canine form. But for President-elect Obama, a couple of trusted friends have something almost as precious as a dog basket in the executive mansion—a West Wing office and the rare title of senior adviser. In the Clinton White House, the FOBs were schmoozers who spent their free time at Renaissance Weekend getaways and ended up as ambassadors. In the closed circle of the Bush White House, there was just one trusted counselor at a time, doling out communications advice to the decider. Now the new FOBs—friends of Barack, not Bill or Bush—will enjoy not just proximity to power but extensive influence in their own right. (Story continued below...)

Axelrod and Jarrett will represent a formidable new layer at the upper echelon of the White House, each with their own fiefdom and the chance to weigh in on any issue. In fact, some transition officials are privately expressing concern at how the pair will interact with their immediate superior, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. In theory, both report to Emanuel; in practice, they have a stronger relationship to the new president than anyone else inside the West Wing. How all three senior officials work together may well determine how well the White House functions in the first year of Obama's presidency.

As the campaign's chief strategist, Axelrod was at Obama's side at every critical moment of the protracted election, giving Axelrod broad influence over political positioning, TV advertising and the day-to-day message. Inside the White House, the soft-spoken Axelrod will have direct control over communications, the press office and speechwriting. Yet his real influence will come from the trust he's earned as the manager of Obama's political ambitions: the big-time Chicago consultant helped Obama to win his Senate seat in 2004, and then to create his presidential organization just two years later. More than anyone else, Axelrod will be the guardian of Obama's image and voice.

Jarrett holds a special place inside the White House as a friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama, having hired the new First Lady to work for Chicago's city government in the 1990s. As a former executive in the housing, planning and transport sectors, Jarrett has extensive experience in public service on the ground in Chicago. Her official West Wing title covers two jobs, one looking outside Washington, the other focused internally. In charge of public liaison, she will work with grassroots organizations outside the capital; in charge of intergovernmental affairs, she will smooth the White House's interactions across departments and agencies. In practice, she is the most loyal of Obama's loyalists—a trusted friend and strong advocate.

Unlike some previous FOBs, both Jarrett and Axelrod have the experience to justify their powerful positions in the administration. Inside the White House, the real test of friendship is not about prime office space or lines of responsibility; it's about serving the man who won the office. The two Chicagoans now have a chance to prove the depth of their unquestioned loyalty.