Whether you think Van Jones is a great guy for green jobs, a sentiment I share, has been a terrific advocate for the African American community, and in terms of his former embracing of communism, singled out by Glenn Beck style neo-McCarthyism in retaliation for the efficacy of Jones' former organization, Color of Change in its boycott of Beck, unfortunately the Van Jones "controversy" has left the confines of the Fox News echo chamber and crept into the mainstream.
The real problem is Jones, along with Janine Garafolo and others, signed this petition raising questions about 9/11:
At a time when health care reform needs to be focused on front and center, what is to be done about this distraction du jour?
This has less to do with communism, calling republicans assholes, noting correctly that poor black communities are disproportionately hit by environmental injustice, and for noting, also correctly, that Columbine massacres invariably feature whites with the question "how could this have happened?" but not minorities. It is going mainstream because of the 9/11 questions.
I have been anguishing about this one for days as I saw, via Twitter, the growing storm against Jones. I have been defending him there, and as I noted above, here with the evocation of Joseph Welch's famous lines: at long last sir, have you no sense of decency? with regard to Glenn Beck's attacks.
I think Jones could survive the intemperate language towards republicans from a Berkeley speech, and explain via context his discussion of whites in the context of environmental justice and Columbine like massacres (where the point was the ongoing stereotyping of blacks and latinos as dangerous young men, with dangerous young whites always being presented as an anomaly). I think the communism is, no pun intended, a total red herring that he can simply refute by stating he abandoned that phase of his life nine years ago.
However, the 9/11 petition is far harder to deal with publicly.
There is no question that the 9/11 petition brings up important questions about what went wrong and why the commission did not fully investigate. The original language of the petition focuses on those questions, and included Ralph Nader as a signatory, for example. On this press release can you find ANYTHING except the raising of questions (I find 1,2,4,5,9,11,12 partcicularly compelling).
Now I am not a 9/11 truther in any sense. I believe that the main answer for how W's admin fucked up lies in their incompetence, and you need look no further than the execution of the Iraq war and Katrina to see the truth of that. In that sense, Zelikow was appointed to try to cover some mighty exposed asses.
I do consider it bold, if perhaps reckless, for those who signed the above petition, and in 2004 I am sure Jones had no idea he would be where he is now. At that point, Barack Obama was just running for senate.
Now, the big question is what is to be done?
I like Jones, like his work.
I think if Obama throws him under the bus, because of Glenn Beck, it makes Obama look weak and Glenn Beck look strong.
I think if Obama keeps him it may make for too much of a distraction. I don't see how, with the trail of statements from Jones that require much explanation and rationalization there is any way to make this work from Obama.
I see only two possibilities.
Either Jones has to come out himself with a truthful, explanatory, and forceful discourse that so thoroughly convinces the mainstream media he is not a problem, OR
Jones has to take one for the team and resign with a gracious statement that he feels he does not want his story to distract from the huge tasks before the president.
What do you think?
I am afraid this will have to happen fast.
I trust Van Jones can soldier on as an effective community organizer if he should leave, and if Beck thinks color for change without Van Jones has been a problem...
UPDATE 1 RL Miller notes a link to Stand with Van. Worth doing!
UPDATE 2: Adding credibility to Jones' claim that he did not appreciate the intention behind the petition he signed, Jake Tapper noted in his blog that a Politico article found two other prominent signatories who felt they were misled.