Van Jones, the President’s designated “Green Jobs Czar,” resigned his post after his ties to a 9/11 “truther” group and use of a vulgarity to describe Republicans began attracting unwelcome scrutiny. Fair enough. Barack Obama cannot condemn any lack of civility among his political opponents while he harbors a rhetorical bomb-thrower like Jones.
But far more disturbing than the revelations about word choices or conspiracy theories that resulted in his ouster are Jones radical views – views that could not have been unknown to The White House. Simply put, Jones is a Marxist who, by his own admission, intended to use his government job to further his ideological agenda. By installing him in a “czar” position of enormous power – but requiring no formal appointment process or legislative oversight – President Obama has damaged not only himself, but the environmental movement as a whole.
The political trouble the President has brought on himself is obvious. Should any journalist choose to navigate the web of the President’s and Jones’ associations, the links could raise uncomfortable questions for Obama. Jones was suggested for his post by Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies, writing in the socialist-founded newspaper “In These Times.” Collins (who helped found the socialist New Party, whose endorsement the President sought and received in his 1996 state senate race), also serves as Director of the Tax Program for Business for Shared Prosperity, an affiliate of left-wing think tank Demos. At Demos, Jones is a member of the board – and the organization’s web site notes that Obama was a founding member, part of the group’s “core.”
Taken together, all this suggests that Jones was hardly some far-flung appointee who was unknown to the President and hired to keep the far left on the Obama team. Rather, he and the President have apparently traveled in overlapping ideological circles. If widely known, these facts will do nothing to quell the rising public disquiet about Obama’s big government activism and skyrocketing deficits. (Nor is Jones’ rhetoric, including the charge that “The white polluters and the white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people of colors’ communities,” likely to burnish Obama’s credentials as a racial “healer.”)
But Jones could prove to be a liability not just for the President but also for the environmental movement as a whole. For some time, critics ranging from Rush Limbaugh to Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus have warned that some are using environmentalism as a pretext for imposing totalitarian, big-government control on the economy. Until now, they have been roundly ridiculed. By denouncing “suicidal gray capitalism” and then characterizing a “green economy” as “the engine for transforming the whole society,” Van Jones has bestowed renewed credibility on these concerns. And in doing so, he’s forcing the many well-intentioned activists in the environmental movement to dispel the suspicion that, perhaps, their motives are not always as pure – or as wholesome – as the public has been led to believe.
For now, press coverage of Van Jones, his radical beliefs, and his ideological links to the President has been minimal. No doubt the President – and many environmentalists across the political spectrum – hope it remains that way.
Editors' note: A previous version of this column misidentified Chuck Collins as affiliated with the Progressive Policy Institute. He is with the Institute for Policy Studies. Townhall regrets the error.