WASHINGTON -- So Van Jones, the defenestrated White House green-jobs czar, once called Republicans "a--holes." Big deal. I've said worse about Democrats. I've said worse about Republicans. I've said worse about members of my family (you know who you are).
How prissy have we become? Are we allowed no salt in our linguistic diets?
Having once written a column praising Vice President Cheney's pithy deployment of the F-word -- on the floor of the Senate, no less -- I rise in defense of Jones. True, Jones' particular choice of epithet had none of the one-syllable concision, the onomatopoeic suggestiveness, the explosive charm of Cheney's. But you don't fire a guy for style.
Another charge was that Jones was a self-proclaimed communist. I can't get too excited about this either. In today's America, to be a communist is a pose, not a conviction. After the Soviet collapse, Marxism is a relic, a pathetic anachronism reduced to its last redoubts: North Korea, Cuba and the English departments of the more expensive American universities.
In any case, every administration is allowed a couple of wing nuts among its 8,000 appointees. As long as they're not in charge of foreign policy or the Fed, who cares?
Other critics are scandalized that Jones once accused "white environmentalists" of "essentially steering poison into the people of colored communities."
In fact, from a global perspective, Jones is right. Environmentalists -- overwhelmingly white and middle/upper class -- have blocked drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. From where do you think the world gets the missing oil? From the poor, exploited, poisoned people of the Niger Delta, the Amazon Basin and other infinitely less-regulated and infinitely dirtier regions of the Third World.
Affluent enviros are all for wind farms, until one is proposed that might mar the serenity of a sail from the crew-necked precincts near Nantucket Sound. Then it's clean energy for thee, not for me.
Jones' genius as an ideological entrepreneur was to mine white liberal anxiety -- they are quite aware of their own NIMBY hypocrisy -- by selling them the "green jobs" shtick to reconcile class/racial guilt with environmental enthusiasm, thus making them feel better about themselves.
That's why Jones rose so far. That's why he was such a "progressive" star. That's why, as top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett put it, "we've been watching him" and were so eager to recruit him to the White House.
In the White House no more. Why? He's gone for one reason and one reason only. You can't sign a petition demanding not one but four investigations of the charge that the Bush administration deliberately allowed 9/11 -- i.e., collaborated in the worst massacre ever perpetrated on American soil -- and be permitted in polite society, let alone have a high-level job in the White House.
Unlike the other stuff (see above), this is no trivial matter. It's beyond radicalism, beyond partisanship. It takes us into the realm of political psychosis, a malignant paranoia that, unlike the Marxist posturing, is not amusing. It's dangerous. In America, movements and parties are required to police their extremes. Bill Buckley did that with Birchers. Liberals need to do that with "truthers."
You can no more have a truther in the White House than you can have a Holocaust denier -- a person who creates a hallucinatory alternative reality in the service of a fathomless malice.
But reality doesn't daunt Jones' defenders. One Obama administration source told ABC that Jones hadn't read the 2004 petition carefully enough, an excuse echoed by Howard Dean.
Carefully enough? It demanded the investigation of charges "that people within the current (Bush) administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war."
Where is the confusing fine print? Where is the syntactical complexity? Where is the perplexing ambiguity? An eighth-grader could tell you exactly what it means. A Yale Law School graduate could not?
No need to worry about Jones, however. Great career move. He's gone from marginal loon to liberal martyr. His speaking fees have just doubled. It's only a matter of time before he gets his own show on MSNBC.
But on the eighth anniversary of 9/11 -- a day when there were no truthers among us, just Americans struck dumb by the savagery of what had been perpetrated on their innocent fellow citizens -- a decent respect for the memory of that day requires that truthers, who derangedly desecrate it, be asked politely to leave. By everyone.