Cross-posted from Wonk Room.
Joe Klein, the prominent Time Magazine liberal columnist, has embraced the right-wing assault on Van Jones, the White House green jobs advisor who resigned this weekend. Stung by a successful boycott for calling the president a “racist,” Glenn Beck led a campaign against Van Jones as a “self avowed communist” who is a “danger to the republic.” Yesterday, Klein said “good riddance” to the “too-angry blowhard” Van Jones, comparing him to a “white supremacist” and a “Nazi”:
Anyway, Jones: He has, in recent years, done some valuable work trying to steer green jobs into poor communities…but there is a bright line in American political life: Self-proclaimed “communists” need not apply. Communism is too odious and foolish a philosophy for anyone reasonable to believe in, or even to use as red-flag hyperbole, as Jones did after the Rodney King riots of the early 1990s, when he said that he’d been a [black] nationalist, but was now a communist. It’s sort of like a Republican President appointing someone who had said, “I used to be a white supremacist, but now I’m a Nazi.” So, good riddance. The work of this presidency is too important to be side-tracked by a too-angry blowhard spouting foolish radicalism.
In the past decade, Van Jones has been at the vanguard of a green capitalism that combines progressive and conservative ideals, “focusing on job, wealth and health creation” in poor and minority communities while healing the planet. His work has helped establish the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, the Green Jobs Act, and community partnerships for job training and retrofit programs in cities across the nation.
Before becoming a leading green capitalist, Jones was a progressive leader in the Bay Area. The “communist” smear hinges on a 2005 interview with the East Bay Express, in which Jones described how he had “renounced” his radicalist politics of the 1990s, when he participated in STORM, a utopian, anti-racist peace collective in Berkeley, CA that drew from Marxist teachings. Jones was radicalized by the 1992 Rodney King trial, in which four LAPD officers were acquitted of police brutality although their beating of Rodney King was caught on videotape. While acting as a legal observer for a non-violent rally in San Francisco protesting the trial and its aftermath, Jones was caught in a mass arrest for which the city later apologized.
Klein’s comparison of Jones to a “Nazi” “white supremacist” is both repugnant and ironic, considering Jones’s record of fighting racism and embracing compassion for all people. Following the Rodney King verdict, Jones worked effectively against police brutality, establishing first the Bay Area PoliceWatch and then the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. The Ella Baker Center successfully campaigned against San Francisco police officer Marc Andaya, who led a team of cops in beating Aaron Williams, “emptying three cans of pepper spray into his face, and hogtying him in an unventilated police van where he died.” With its “Books Not Bars” campaign, the Center also stopped the construction of the Alameda County “Super Jail for Kids” in 2001.
Klein — a compelling writer who has argued for legalizing marijuana, a war crimes tribunal for the Bush administration, and the same green-jobs vision as Van Jones — should be the last person to promote a McCarthyite purge of “left-extremists” from the Obama administration.