The video above shows the visionary Van Jones speaking from the World Economic Forum at Davos. I was astonished when I learned over Twitter this weekend that Van Jones was stepping down from his position as special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Let me tell you about the Van Jones I know and what the mainstream media failed to remind folks (from

Van wrote the definitive book on “green jobs”: The Green Collar Economy. In 2008 — thanks to a low-cost, viral marketing campaign — his book became an instant New York Times bestseller. It is today being translated into six languages.

As a tireless advocate for disadvantaged people and the environment, Van helped to pass America’s first “green job training” legislation: the Green Jobs Act, which George W. Bush signed into law as a part of the 2007 Energy Bill. He is the co-founder of a number of successful non-profit organizations, including the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Green For All.

Van is the recipient of many awards and honors, including: the Reebok International Human Rights Award; the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader designation; the prestigious, international Ashoka Fellowship; and many more. Van was included in the Ebony Magazine “Power 150” list of most influential African Americans for 2009. In 2008, Essence magazine named him one of the 25 most inspiring/influential African Americans. TIME Magazine named him an environmental hero in 2008. In 2009, TIME named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Van’s graceful, simple yet pointed statement upon leaving:

On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide.

“I have been inundated with calls — from across the political spectrum — urging me to ‘stay and fight.’ But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.

It has been a great honor to serve my country and my President in this capacity. I thank everyone who has offered support and encouragement. I am proud to have been able to make a contribution to the clean energy future. I will continue to do so, in the months and years ahead.

A vicious smear campaign, indeed. Or let’s call it a lynch mob. Here’s the deal: Van Jones didn’t break any laws. He didn’t do anything illegal or unethical. His taxes (far as I know) are all in order. Jones put his name on some petition asking for an investigation of the Bush administration’s role in preventing (or failing to prevent) 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, lots of folks were looking for answers. Looking at the preventable military and humanitarian catastrophes surrounding Iraq, Afghanistan and Katrina, frankly, wondering who knew what when prior to 9/11 doesn’t look so crazy to me. Note, I’m NOT a truther: I don’t think any government would purposely let something like 9/11 happen. Yet I do think the Bush administration distinguished itself with an arrogant, opportunistic yet consistent incompetence that could stand more sunlight on its internal decision-making, given the scope of its many failures to protect American citizens.

Since that time (years ago now), Van has left all those questions behind and has focused not on the past but on the future. He electrified folks with his vision of a renewed American prosperity driven through a surge of green collar jobs. Van saw how we could solve the problems of poverty and pollution impacting climate change at the same time and give, in his words, “the work that most needs to be done to those who most need the work.”

The Obama administration, including Obama and David Axelrod, parroted Van’s words before convincing him to leave his post as head of Green for All, move his family across the country from Oakland CA just a few months ago and bring his vision to reality as Green Jobs Czar. This same administration was all too quick to abandon him when that vision came under attack even as folks were lining up outside the White House to defend Jones.

Leading the attack? Our old friend Glenn Beck. It’s amazing to me that no one in the Obama administration put all the pieces together. This isn’t about Van Jones! Color of Change, which Van helped co-found, is leading a successful campaign to convince advertisers to stop running ads on Beck’s show due to his overtly racist and inflammatory remarks. So far almost 60 advertisers have fled and Fox News has resorted to running mostly promos for other shows. On the ropes, Beck unleashed a ridiculous revenge campaign focused on attacking Van Jones as a proxy for attacking and embarrassing the President. This was a guilt by association attempt just like the conservative obsession with linking Obama to Bill Ayers and his Weatherman past during the 2008 campaign.

And unlike with Ayers, Barack blinked. In the chess game that’s being played here, Obama just got served. Our fight against Glenn Beck and his brethren just got harder. Now Beck’s “too legit to quit.” And he’s already announced his next targets via his crazy-ass all-caps twitter stream:


Which was immediately preceded with:

America is getting it: Now, call DC and DEMAND that the WH answers for Van Jones and the CZARS!!!FREEZE & answer

Dumb and dumber. I watched David Axelrod’s visible relief on Sunday’s Meet the Press that Van had stepped down, saying “I commend him.” That relief won’t last long. This was a maneuver that may come to haunt Obama much like backing turncoat Lieberman over Lamont for the Senate in CT awhile back.

So what if Van used a bad word in a talk prior to joining the administration? Dick Cheney told a sitting Senator to go F-word himself on the Senate Floor as Vice President! Bush never blinked — that much, in terms of handling opponents and the media, Bush got right. He made progressives feel at times like we were shouting into the wind, like we had no hope. Like Bush’s poor choices and policies were inevitable. The forces of racism, division and hatred should feel that way and more. Beck, Bachmann, O’Reilly, Hannity, Imus — all those cats should feel like they are facing a impenetrable stonewall of strength. That’s how this new game is played.

  • How does Obama plan to fundraise in a couple of years in the Bay Area, source of much of his early support? Everyone I’ve talked to here from activists to non-profit types to entrepreneurs to major foundation heads is some flavor of disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted or alarmed by Obama’s failure to figure out a way to spin this and defend Jones.
  • How does Obama plan to continue recruiting ultra-talented individuals like Jones? I’m not sure I’d go to the White House knowing that a brother might sell me down river as soon as things get hot. Those on Beck’s hit list must be wondering about their futures. Mark Lloyd, formerly of LCCR, is a really great and super-smart brother who doesn’t deserve a Beck smear treatment.
  • How does Obama plan to handle the next lynch mob attack? Will he stand strong and defend his team or leave them to twist in the wind like strange fruit from a southern tree at the mercy of irrational racists?
  • How does Obama plan to keep folks like us motivated to fight for him when the work we are doing to combat cretins like Glenn Beck is so undervalued and misunderstood?

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Van and know him to be one of the warmest, realest, most amazing individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of encountering. I remain proud that Van Jones has guest-blogged here on JJP. Jones deserved more, much  more from this administration who has borrowed so many of his ideas. Arianna Huffington may be right, although I’m not sure I’m ready to say Thank You, Glenn Beck! Perhaps it’s best that Van is now returned to speak freely again as an energizing advocate for a green, prosperous future. And perhaps…he can help us keep the prez accountable to those who elected him.

Van Jones will be fine. He’ll survive this and come back stronger than ever. Obama, on the other hand…? The day he accepted Jones’ resignation may someday be a day he comes to regret.

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