Van Jones, founder of Green for All and the leading voice of the green jobs movement, has stepped down from his post as White House environmental adviser. Jones was seen as the President's "Green Jobs Czar" and his views on the environmental movement, his past as a political activist, and the partisan attacks (a while back he was taped referring to Republicans as "assholes") have led to cries for his resignation. Jones, realizing that falling on his sword made more sense since it would be less of a distraction than trying to combat the distortions and smears, said, in his statement, that "I came here to fight for others, not for myself."
Here are the facts related to the right wing media attacks on Jones's character:
1. Van Jones was among the many who were arrested in San Francisco for protesting during the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict in 1992. Jones was a law student at Yale at the time and was working for the San Fran based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, and was monitoring the demonstrations at the time he was arrested.
2. Later that same year Jones said he became a "communist." He was a leftist activist for the next several years but upon realizing that their cause resulted in little or no progress he came around to the idea of capitalism, saying that he "...realized that there are a lot of people who are capitalists....who are really committed to fairly significant change in the economy, and were having bigger impacts than me and a lot of my friends with our protest signs" The full story on Jone's political past can be found in this Bay Area newspaper story.
3. Jones referred to Republicans as "assholes." It seemed like he was trying to be funny, because he even admitted the too could sometimes be an asshole, and that sometimes you have to be an asshole to pass legislation. Jones said this on 2/11/2009, prior to his being named to his post as White House adviser.
4. Jones spoke out about the role of race in environmental issues an decisions. Here he is talking about how white polluters, in the form of big business CEOs have "steered poison" into colored peoples' neighborhoods.
So basically, the far right didn't want a guy with a radical past and history of speaking the truth of the role of race in the environmental movement working closely with the President and his administration. Fair enough, and I think the Obama administration should have known better than to hire someone with Jones' background, because it plays into the right's hand and their argument that Obama "surrounds himself with radicals", although, up until this point, their accusations have turned out to be wrong.
I doubt Van Jones is going to lose sleep over resigning. Part of what makes Van Jones the leader that he is today is his radical roots, and his willingness to speak bluntly about the environmental and green jobs divide. As Al Gore has proven, someone with the drive of a Van Jones can probably do more for their cause working outside of government than they could from within.
UPDATE: This editorial from the San Fran Chronicle pretty much sums up what I posted above, but I wanted to highlight the following paragraph:
"Those of us who have observed Van Jones' work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage."