By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services
You probably never heard of Van Jones, and you may never hear of him again. Until last week, he was President Obama’s adviser on “Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation” in the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
But he is no longer. Now he’s out of a job. And therein lies a tale that should make all of us angry or nervous.
One man railroaded Jones out of his job: Fox News anchor and radio talk show host Glenn Beck. You remember him. He’s the nut who called President Obama a “racist” on “Fox and Friends” last July 28.
There was a time, not so long ago, when calling the president of the United States a “racist” on national television would get an anchor fired. But that was before Fox News. At Fox, archenemy of President Obama, Beck was not only not fired he was treated like a folk hero — even though some 60 major corporate sponsors stopped advertising on his program in protest.
Rather than apologize to President Obama, the decent thing to do, Beck went berserk, accusing Obama of staging a quiet coup d’etat to turn this country into a Cuba-like communist dictatorship. “There is a revolution,” he warned his gullible audience, “and they think they can get away with it quietly. … Most of America doesn’t have a clue as to what’s going on. There is a coup going on.” (Cue the Black Hawk helicopters!)
And, to help him carry out that coup, fumed Beck, Obama has surrounded himself with a gang of communist agitators known as “czars.” Beck’s first target: “Green Jobs” czar Van Jones.
Jones hardly fits the profile of a dangerous radical, unless saving the environment is your definition of subversive activity. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Yale Law School, Jones became a community organizer and created the nation’s first “Green Job Corps” in Oakland, Calif., in 2005. That same year, he also helped form the web-based grassroots organization Color of Change, which organized the current sponsor boycott of Beck’s TV show. Jones left the organization in 2007. In January 2008, he launched “Green for All,” a national organization to help lift people out of poverty through green jobs — work for which he was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the country. In March 2009, he joined the Obama administration.
Yes, along the way, Jones made a few mistakes. He once signed a petition urging an investigation into the crazy theory that George Bush and Dick Cheney actually staged the attacks of Sept. 11. In 1992, after being falsely arrested in the Rodney King riots, he described himself as a “communist” — though he never joined the Communist Party, but instead channeled his energies into founding a highly respected anti-police brutality organization in the Bay Area. More recently, he referred to Congressional Republicans attempting to derail Obama’s legislative agenda as “a-holes.”
Foolish mistakes, perhaps, but hardly worth destroying a career over. Yet, in 14 episodes of his show, Beck seized on these statements to paint Jones as a dangerous “communist-anarchist radical” heading a vast radical/environmental/black nationalist takeover of America from within the Obama White House.
It was a page ripped right out of the book of Commie witch hunter Joseph McCarthy: personal attacks on little-known government officials based on nothing but lies, smears and innuendo (“Are you now, or have you ever been…?”) — yet ultimately, just as successful. Within two weeks, Jones was forced to resign. And, rather than defend him, the Obama White House accepted his resignation.
Welcome to the Beckification of American politics — where one cable host alone, with no help from Congress, can bring down a top government official, based on a campaign of lies and distortion. God save the Republic!
One thing for sure, which Obama should have considered before accepting Jones’ resignation: Having once tasted blood, Glenn Beck won’t be satisfied with destroying Van Jones alone. In fact, he’s already identified his next targets: so-called White House “czars” on energy and climate change, Carol Browner; on science, John Holdren, on regulatory reform, Cass Sunstein, and on communications, Mark Lloyd.
Beck’s diabolical campaign is all the more bizarre given his own avowed history with alcohol and drug addiction.
Which raises a serious question: Why believe a recovering alcoholic and drug addict over a former community organizer? I’ll trust Van Jones any day over Glenn Beck.