The Lessons of the Van Jones Resignation



 We won the battle to get rid of Van Jones; now the question must be asked: what have we learned, and what can we do to help explain the real questions that his quick resignation raises?


First, it is clear that President Obama should have fired him, from the first moment the truth about his past was made public. That it took some time indicates that the White House hoped that it would blow over and be viewed simply as a silly right-wing attack on the President’s program. By resigning before being fired, Jones hopes clearly that his resignation statement plays to this narrative.  Jones says, as ABC News reports, that he was forced out because of a “vicious smear campaign” against him by enemies of reform.  It is not simply a matter of his inadvertently “offending anyone,” as Jones tries to explain his comments. What he calls a smear campaign is simply an accurate pointing out of what he believed, and how recent his beliefs are.

The reports this morning concentrate on Jones’ signing of the 9/11 truther petition, which Jones has said he never agreed with, and on which his name was used without his permission. Early this morning, the White House was still defending him. Nancy Sutley, who heads the White House environmental council, said in a statement early Sunday that Jones “had been a strong voice for creating jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources,” ABC reported.

In other words, they are trying to make it appear that someone who wrote a best-selling book on the green economy would have made a great contribution, but now to save the President’s program is no longer able to proceed. They have not showed as so many bloggers have, how Jones’ views on the environment are also extremely radical, and racist to boot. They have not, as I pointed out earlier this week, how Jones means his green jobs movement as a stepping stone to overturning the “oppressive” and exploitative economic system in America.


Secondly, because of his Sunday resignation, the media has not picked up on the latest video report featured on Powerlineblog and  Gateway Pundit that exposed the CD issued by Jones and the group he founded, The Ella Baker Freedom Center. Since Jones produced and distributed the CD, and is actually on it himself voicing vicious anti-Israel smears in which he says the “occupation” of Palestine by Israel began in 1948, there is no possible way he can dissociate himself from it. Moreover, others on the CD talk about America as the real enemy of freedom and accuse our troops of being baby-killers.

(I might add that the name of Jones’ Oakland group, The Ella Baker Freedom Center, is most appropriate. Most people have referred to the late Baker as simply a civil rights activist. I am writing from vacation in Nantucket, without benefit of my files at home. But in my book, Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996,”  I point out that the late civil rights lawyer Joe Rauh, had noted that everything Baker said in the 60’s might as well have been taken verboten from The Daily Worker, the Communist Party newspaper. Baker was so pro-Communist that she attacked Hubert Humphrey and other liberal anti-Communists as ultra reactionaries.  Known as the “grandmother of SNCC,” Baker was aligned with those in the movement who were trying to push the organization to the far left.)

On Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace this morning, Howard Dean defended Jones and argued that he clearly signed the 9/11 petition without looking at it, because a man as busy as him signed something thrust in his face without looking at it. This kind of ridiculous apologia is going to be made over and over. Sure, and his comments on the CD were made because he didn’t have time to look at the words he wrote on the script before he stated them.


Finally, we must raise the question who vetted him, and how could the President not have known Jones’ views? Of course, the White House did know. Valerie Jarrett made it clear that they recruited him because they were familiar with his record in Oakland, and they wanted him in the White House. If Jones knew, Obama knew. When a candidate for a government job fills out a form, either the FBI clearance form or the one given candidates by the administration, they are asked if they have done anything, said anything or been involved in groups that could prove embarrassing to the President. I know this, because I had an investigation myself for a commission on which I sit, and I had to answer that question. My position too is not one that had to be voted on by the Senate, yet I had to fill out the form and directly answer the agents’ queries.

In my case, my rather old radical past is an open book; I have written about it many times, including in my own published memoir,  Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left . Indeed, I told the two agents interviewing me that rather than waste their time, they read the memoir and then ask me any further questions they might have. I gave them an autographed copy, and never heard from them again. I received my top security clearance. Of course, for decades I have made more than clear how and why I changed my political views. Anything I wrote or said when I was on the Left is indeed ancient history, and everyone knows that my old views are not those  I now subscribe to.


If an investigation of Jones was carried out, the FBI easily would have found everything that the bloggers uncovered, and perhaps more. They would have reported these findings to the White House. Who then, having been given these findings, still approved Jones’ appointment? And why? His resignation must not prevent this question from being asked.

How many other if the 30 plus so-called czars might turn out to have similar backgrounds to Jones? Is Jones simply the tip of the iceberg? Will we ever know?


When I wrote about Van Jones last week, the only people who took notice of his appointment were David Horowitz, who first reported on his background, and Glenn Beck, whose ranting made it appear that there was somewhat of a conspiracy on the part of the Obama administration to appoint extremist radicals to positions of importance. Nevertheless, Beck must be given all the credit to alerting everyone to Jones’ position at the White House.

Now, finally, some of the mainstream media has picked up the story. Yesterday, Jake Tapper of ABC News blogged on the Jones appointment. Fox News put various statements made by Jones on their website. Finally, TNR ran an article on its website by Kate Sheppard, which both called attention to Jones while ridiculing the entire brouhaha.

Sheppard’s piece is an example of particularly flawed argument. First, she writes that “for months now, various right-wing bloggers and Glenn Beck have been trying to whip up outrage over Van Jones, Obama’s green-jobs guru. Their feverish accusations to date—that he’s a secret communist, say—have been absurd and easily ignored.”


I used to have a saying: “Just because J.Edgar Hoover said it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.”  Today, I would have to add that because Beck has first brought it to the nation’s attention, also doesn’t mean it’s not true. It turns out, of course, that Jones’ record and background is not only fair game, but that the reports about him are true. He was a proclaimed communist and Maoist, and has publicly said that today he is adopting new strategies to achieve his radical and anti-capitalist goals.  And that is why, Sheppard is forced to say, he is becoming a “political headache” for the White House.

Sheppard tries to legitimize Jones by pointing to how many national liberal leaders have endorsed him, from Nancy Pelosi on. The real question, of course, is why they have done this? It is akin to the question I asked in the pages of TNR in the 1980’s, when the peace movement was at its hilt, and I asked how they expected to be taken seriously when they accepted the participation of Soviet line Communists. The major liberal summits that featured Jones as a keynoter, and on which she reports, should be embarrassed at their willingness to feature someone with Jones’ views.

Sheppard should start by reading the analysis on by Ben Johnson, if she can stand to read a sound argument, even though it comes from a conservative source. Johnson lays out with direct and accurate quotes from Jones what he believes, and how he intends to use his green jobs position as a vehicle for a clearly left-wing socialist agenda.


Here is the key Jones quote:

Right now we say we want to move from suicidal gray capitalism to something eco-capitalism where at least we’re not fast-tracking the destruction of the whole planet. Will that be enough? No, it won’t be enough. We want to go beyond the systems of exploitation and oppression altogether. But, that’s a process and I think that’s what’s great about the movement that is beginning to emerge is that the crisis is so severe in terms of joblessness, violence and now ecological threats that people are willing to be both pragmatic and visionary. So the green economy will start off as a small subset and we are going to push it and push it and push it until it becomes the engine for transforming the whole society.    


This is left-wing lingo, and a clear call for “transforming the whole society” to the original communist vision Jones obviously still believes in.

How could such a man get any White House appointment, especially one with a large budget and a strategy for social revolution as its goal? If George W. Bush had appointed a David Duke supporter who only four years earlier was a leader of a Klan offshoot, the Left would rightfully have yelled bloody murder until the appointee was dismissed.  One must also ask what happened to the traditional FBI vetting of one’s background, and the calling attention to it by the Bureau to the President, before the appointment was made.

Did Obama know of Jones’ views and associations? If not, why not? And if he did, why did he still appoint him? One wonders if Bill Ayers had not been the subject of so much attention before the election, whether he too would haven been made an education czar?








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