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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.