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Sep. 4 2009 - 11:59 am | 1 views | 3 recommendations | 4 comments

Van Jones Should Stick It Out

Van Jones speaking at the 2008 Dream Reborn Co...

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When news broke yesterday that White House advisor Van Jones had once signed a “truther” 9/11 petition, my heart sank. Jones was already public enemy number one to the Glenn Becks of the world, who, in the paroxysms of their imaginations, made Jones out to be a dangerous anti-American radical, more comfortable with Karl Marx than Thomas Jefferson. The right-wing activists who have smeared Jones have done so without giving a second thought to the substance of his good deeds and fine intentions. In their anti-Obama fervor, they were willing to put a destroy the career of a man who had done much to empower nonwhite communities and brunt the force of environmental degradation.

But the petition to which Jones was a signatory in 2004 likely spells the end of his career in the White House. It argues that “people within the current administration [then the Bush Administration] may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.” It was, in short, an insane petition, predicated on paranoia and an allergy to simple facts. The revelation that Jones signed makes resignation his only option, politically speaking. But I think Jones should stick it out. I find the truthers’ claims abhorrent and offensive, and of course logically absurd. Yet you don’t have to agree with them–indeed, you can detest them–to realize that Jones’ departure would represent a body blow not just to environmentalism, but to the special promise of the Obama Administration.

Some on the right, including John McCain in the waning days of his presidential campaign, have turned concerns over Obama’s radical past, and the radicals pasts of his associates, into an obsession. Here’s the thing, though: those radical pasts are real. More than any other president in American history, Barack Obama comes from a world in which the interests and arguments of the radical left are real. That doesn’t mean Obama and his team subscribe to them. On the contrary–and this is important!–they’ve moved beyond them. Obama himself admitted familiarity with Marx as an adolescent and young man. We all now know the names of William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. Jones, too, has been in close proximity to such circles, much more recently like Obama.

But like his boss, the president of the United States, he chose to leave the radicals behind, and enter the world of mainstream liberalism. This, for Jones, was always a risk. The radical left believes that true change and progress are not possible within the narrow confines of the political system. Liberals, on the other hand, believe that our system is great and good, and great change can be enacted within it. As a liberal, I was hopeful that an Obama presidency would do much to dispell the most dangerous myths of the radical left. An Obama presidency would bring the most virulently anti-American radicals, against all they had believed previously, back into the fold of the body politic.

Or so I hoped. If Jones is forced to resign, I imagine that their previous anxiety will only be renewed. See, it isn’t possible, they’ll think. We were right. So: Jones should get out in public and accept responsibility for his actions. He should say that his previous beliefs were misguided; his deep opposition to the American government, signaled as much as anything by his decision to sign this petition, has been overcome. He’s chosen to work with our government, because he believes in it. He works for it now. We need Van Jones, and we need his compatriots, on the inside working out, rather than the other way around.


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  1. collapse expand

    Ethan Porter, are you a journalist? You don’t sound like one. All Glenn Beck did was tell the truth about this clown. The right wing hasn’t smeared this guy…he did it all by himslef. Look at the videos of his speeches. He is an absoulte fool.

    Please tell me the, “substance of his good deeds and fine intentions?” Lokk this guy is a Marxit and an avowed communist. He is a leftist radical. The majority of Americans do not vbelieve in any thing he say…the majority Mr. Porter. So why should we acquiesse to his rational of whta things should be? America by popular demand does notwant to radical left running the U.S. or saying what we should and should not beleive in. Last time I saw anything on this subject I saw that we were still a democracy. President Obama, you and Jones will all relize this in a few years when a right conservative wing woman with values instead of lies runs the country. He will be a one term President…and then were will you be. Licking the boots of Mr. Jones I assume?

  2. collapse expand

    Repugs must be denied any victory no matter how small as punishment for not accepting their LOSER status after the last election. If Repugs won’t fire Senator Ensign for whoremastering and adultery, they have no right to ask for anybody in the other party to be fired. Sarah Palin committed ADULTERY says the same National Enquirer people who proved it about DEM John Edwards — they don’t care which party they expose and are not biased either way. If Palin’s adultery is OK with repugs then they can just shut their immoral mouths. What about ADULTERER governor Sanford who flies by tax-paid air taxi to his dentist appointment or picnics? Senator ADULTERER Vitter from Louisiana? How was he different from DEM governor of NY Spitzer? Moralists, Go Cheney Yourselves, torturers.

  3. collapse expand

    Values??? Right wing values?

    Greed on Wall Street.
    Torture in secret prisons.
    Lies to encourage war and death.
    Intolerance of gays.
    Sloth one third of a presidency on vacation.
    Wrath, calling anyone who opposed the administration traitor, fire all lawyers not following orders.

    Lust some closeted gays, affairs.
    Pride, VP Cheney.

  4. collapse expand

    Why does everyone think that Van Jones just pulled a Palin?

    Hey, when you’re _the_ main man on green — energy, jobs, and climate advocacy — and the brightest guy in the House, at the nexus connecting the Left with the African-American/Latino with the labor constituencies — you think such a guy can just walk?

    He’s gone because they wanted him gone. Because the Palin-pullers are higher up than Van, not in public esteem but in the House hierarchy.

    The braintrust is depleted and Beck/Murdock et al get to crow, regaining their advertisers as they draw their McCarthyist bead on other high-profile Obama team members.

    Everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten, remember? Well, remember this: you can’t placate a bully, least of all at the expense of cutting out your heart, soul, and brains.

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    I live in Washington, D.C., a few blocks away from the White House--hence the title of this blog. In my day job, I'm the associate editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas (www.democracyjournal.org). I've written for The Nation, Politico, The New Republic, Mother Jones, and the NY Daily News, among other places. This blog will be about politics and the Red Sox.

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