Van Jones, the White House ‘green jobs csar’, resigned on Saturday after a campaign spearheaded by Fox News presenter Glenn Beck.
Notably, this campaign wasn’t about green jobs. Its main focus was Jones’ alleged radical leanings, which mostly concerned making derogatory comments about the Republicans, and claims he was a 9/11 ‘truther’, believing high-level officials knew about the September 11 attacks.
Advancing green jobs was a key angle in both the Budget earlier this year and the Waxman-Markey bill, that includes renewable energy targets along with a cap-and-trade scheme. The concept has not been without controversy, particularly after a study published in Spain said that the country’s spending on renewable energy hadn’t created as many jobs as were lost.
But in the end Jones was targeted more for his background as a ‘community organiser’ and strong words about the Republican party and for signing a petition linking the government to the September 11attacks. Last week he apologised for cursing the Republicans, and said he did not support the petition’s stand.
Also under attack was his status as a ‘czar’, unelected and unapproved by Congress.
As Politico writes:
The Jones debacle shows how czars — dozens of powerful problem solvers tapped to tackle some of the thorniest problems facing the country — could continue to cause problems for the White House. By some counts, the Obama administration has about 30 czars — a term used as shorthand for long, wonky titles such as Jones’s “Council on Environmental Quality’s special adviser for green jobs.”
In fact the attacks on Jones have come as part of a wider campaign against President Obama from conservative critics: as the FT reports, it was quickly followed by a ferocious attack on plans for an Obama speech to be delivered to school students tomorrow – although President George H.W. Bush did the same thing in 1991.
The fact that the furore didn’t really concern green jobs itself probably won’t be huge source of reassurance for either the environmental movement or the renewables industry. A wider, sustained attack on czars could, for example, bring the likes of Tod Stern (climate change) and John Holdren (science) into its sights. Meanwhile, an increasingly heated and polarised political environment probably wouldn’t help get climate change legislation passed any time soon.
Can a remedy serve for both global warming and poverty? (New Yorker profile of Jones published in January, prior to his White House appointment)
Comments from the Sunday news programmes about Van Jones (Grist, 06/09/09)