Van Jones Resigns and Whines
One of the curious controversies I’ve been half-following on Twitter but haven’t been motivated to write about is the case of Van Jones, a leader of the 9/11 “Truther” movement who has served since March as President Obama’s Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, or “Green Jobs Tsar” for short. After several days of denials and revelations proving he was a liar, he “resigned” overnight:
White House environmental adviser Van Jones resigned Saturday after weeks of controversy stemming from his past activism.
“On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me,” Jones, special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement announcing his resignation just after midnight Saturday. “They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.” He continued: “I have been inundated with calls — from across the political spectrum — urging me to ‘stay and fight.’ But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.”
Jones issued two public apologies in recent days, one for signing a petition that questioned whether Bush administration officials “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war” and the other for using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) called on Jones to resign Friday, saying in a statement, “His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate.” Senator Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) urged Congress to investigate Jones’s “fitness” for the position, writing in an open letter, “Can the American people trust a senior White House official that is so cavalier in his association with such radical and repugnant sentiments?” On Saturday, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, wrote on his Twitter account, “Van Jones has to go.”
I haven’t been particularly agitated over this because:
- It’s theoretically possible to both be a respected expert in one’s field and a genuine nut on an unrelated issue. And, frankly, in the case of environmentalists, it’s possible to be a respected expert in the field and a nut on that issue.
- I figured that, if there was enough substance to the criticism, Obama would pull the plug on Jones just as he has with virtually every other controversial advisor or appointee who threatened to distract him from accomplishing his goals.
Oddly, the local NBC affiliate reports it wasn’t his Trutherism that got him but his temperament:
President Obama‘s environmental adviser Van Jones resigned from his post late Saturday evening after he came under fire for a series of inflammatory statements he made about Republicans, the White House said early Sunday morning. Jones, Obama’s green jobs “czar,” was caught on tape in an expletive-packed rant, directly attacking Republicans in the Senate who he said abused their majority position in the past to push legislation through. He told Politico after the statements were released that the comments were “inappropriate” and “offensive.”
Jones’ victim mentality here is rich. Of course people who engage in bizarre conspiracy theories that only the nuttiest members of their party adhere to are going to come under scrutiny when appointed to high positions in government. (Although, as Rick Moran points out, some will slip through the cracks. In administrations of both parties.) Of course the opposition party is going to launch inquiries and call your fitness into question. It’s best to just go quietly into that good night when you’re caught.
I’m a bit surprised that Kevin Drum is upset by this development. So what if Glenn Beck was one of the loudest voices calling for Jones to go? Stopped clocks and all that. And Beck has been on this since July 23 and it’s just coming to a head now; methinks Beck wasn’t the main factor. And “our effort to generate green jobs during a recession will be just a little less effective”? Hardly. First, I’m skeptical that a White House advisor is going to create these jobs, anyway. Second, to the degree that high level leadership is going to help, it’s not going to come from a lunatic.
That said, I think Jim Geraghty goes too far in closing this circle:
Last year, many at NRO and other conservative news organizations, including myself, wrote quite a bit about William Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright, and Michael Pfleger, and Tony Rezko, etc. And more than a few Obama supporters, and more than a few mainstream media voices, thought that the criticism was wildly overhyped and Obama’s ties to those types were irrelevant, because as president, Barack Obama would never put anyone in his administration with such controversial, paranoid, extreme, and anti-American views.
In light of Van Jones, all of those folks who said we made too much out of Ayers and Wright and the rest are invited to dine on a heaping platter of crow; it goes well with the egg on their faces.
There’s little evidence that Obama is a conspiracy loon, an anti-white racist, or an extremist. There is, however, plenty of evidence that he’s been willing to make alliances for political convenience — which means associating with some unsavory characters, especially in the Chicago political machine — and that his team is unusually sloppy in vetting appointees. Given that Jones fits the latter pattern, there’s not much need to go looking further for clues.