Monday, September 07, 2009

You Can't Stay Here With Every Single Hope

It's Sunday dinnertime. Pete's made yet another dinner for the record books. I spent all afternoon in the driveway, stripping ninety years' worth of paint off our tenant's bedroom door, so I've had a lot of time to think about this.
The resignation of Obama administration figure Van Jones, following controversies over a petition he had signed and his comments about Republicans, did not come at the request of the president, the White House senior adviser said Sunday.

"Absolutely not - this was Van Jones' own decision," David Axelrod told NBC's "Meet the Press" when asked if the president had ordered the resignation. The chairman of the House Republican Conference, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, had called for Jones to resign or be fired.

"I think Van Jones did the right thing," Pence said Sunday about the resignation. "His extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration."

Jones has frequently been dubbed a "green-jobs czar" for the administration.

There are a number of ways to understand this story. CNN offers one in the next paragraph. It sounds innocuous, if one is only half-listening:
"The president should suspend any future appointment of so called czars while the administration and the Congress carefully examines the background and qualifications of the more than 30 individuals who've been appointed to these czar positions," said Pence, speaking to reporters. "And the Congress ought to initiate a thorough inquiry into the constitutionality of this practice which has spanned Republican and Democrat administrations."

Well, that might make sense if the president's nominees weren't already being blocked by Republicans on the confirmation committees. To be clear: Pence is calling for the president to stop staffing his administration and CNN skips blithely past that point but lands here, so close to the truth:
One of the most prominent conservative voices condemning Jones in recent days has been FOX TV host Glenn Beck.

Jones is a co-founder of, a group that recently has been pressing advertisers to boycott Beck's program after Beck called Obama a racist.

Color of Change sends me email. I participate in CoC's campaigns because I agree with CoC's positions on media racism generally and Beck's racism in particular. So far: about 50 sponsors have removed their sponsorship from Beck's program but not FOX itself. This has pissed off Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and Glenn Beck, because - and we should be clear about this - in their view, Black people should be quiet, subservient and politically invisible. CoC's campaign is the racist's fear come true: Black people in numbers and fellow travelers like me wielding economic power. Murdoch, Ailes and Beck are not taking this lying down. They don't care about Jones. It could have been almost any person of color. They picked a target, hounded him and forced him to submit. Still, there are different ways to measure what happened. FOX offers this coy tea leaf reading:
Jones' Resignation May Embolden Administration Critics

I'm not linking to that crap. You can Google it, if you feel so inspired. Jill sums up her take thusly:
The only question is whether Beck is really as utterly batshit crazy as he seems, or if Beck is the second coming of Andy Kaufman and this is all a kind of gonzo performance art that's gone completely out of control. But does it matter at this point, when the Obama White House has shown its complete willingness to dance to the tune of a party that has become now the exclusive province of racists, thugs, religious nutjobs, and other people you wouldn't want to run into on a dark country road?

Why on earth does Barack Obama care about what these people say? Is there something in the water at the White House that makes Democrats shut off their ability for independent thought and turns them into hapless slaves of Republican Mojo Mind Control? What the hell is going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Whatever it is, it's infecting the outside world as well. I was just listening to "Morning Edition" on WNYC and heard Leann Hansen say in regard to health care reform that "There doesn't seem to be a lot of support for a public option". And this is National Public Radio, that old supposedly liberal bastion. Either Leann Hansen has joined the ranks of Laziest So-Called Journalists in America, or the corporations that help subsidize NPR have given their marching orders. Or both.

Jane wants to know why the big-name liberal groups didn't come out in support of Jones, but left him to twist in the wind.
If these groups, if these liberal leaders, let Jones just hang there while Glenn Beck pounds his chest and celebrates the scalp, we have no liberal institutions. What we have are a bunch of neoliberal enablers who have found a nice comfortable place in the DC establishment that they don't want to jeopardize, a place on the new K-Street gravy train that they don't want to lose. Dropping Van Jones from their rolodex is a small price to pay.

If there is going to be a serious progressive movement in this country capable of standing up for health care against an industry that spends $1.4 million a day on lobbying, we can't just look to the members of the Progressive Caucus and say "hey, you, get something done." They need cover. They need to know that they will be supported. And people like Van Jones who have given their lives to causes we say we value like prison reform and environmental advocacy need to know that they will be defended, and not handed over to Glenn Beck as an acceptable casualty in the battle for K-Street dollars.

So to all you liberal organizations in the "veal pen" - this is your moment of truth. I get all your emails. And the next Common Purpose meeting is probably on Tuesday. If you can't get it together to at least put out a statement of support for Van Jones and condemn the White House for using him as a sacrificial lamb to right wing extremists that will devour us all if left unchecked, it's time to add "proudly liberal only when it doesn't matter" to your logo and be done with it.

At Jack & Jiill Politics, Jack laments:
Van Jones was one of the good guys. A really, really good guy. He used his education and his passion to combat police brutality and the massive, wasteful incarceration of so many of this nation’s young, brown people. Having fought in the trenches for so long, he saw an opportunity to build hope and jobs and tangible communities as the world responds to the climate crisis. He connected the dots and inspired action and had a vision. He was the rare outsider who got a chance to move inside, and move he did.

Van was the kind of guy that gave me real confidence in this administration’s seriousness. President Obama meets with generals every day and sees scary reports and wants to get re-elected. I can always make some politics-based allowances for his underwhelming actions. Van, however, was truly one of us. He got it. And to give someone like him power gave me more faith in the president. So when the lynch mob came after Van, it was a test. The same test so many Democratic administrations have failed time and time again. When the going gets tough, do you back your people, or do you fall back on excuses.

This White House, this administration and this president failed Van, failed its supporters and failed to honor the efforts of millions that got them into office in the first place. What’s the point of having power if you don’t use it? When will this White House realize that nothing it does will ever be acceptable to the loud-mouthed, ignorant minority? When will it learn that you cannot negotiate with terrorists??

I’m heartbroken over Van’s departure because it’s these little meaningless concessions that undermine people’s faith in the system. You get folks all riled up about change. You empower a man who embodies that change. And they you let him be run out of office by fucking Glenn Beck? So Glenn Beck is running the White House now? Is that how it’s gonna be? Just tell me that I knocked on all those doors for nothing, and I can start the grieving process, but don’t pretend this will solve anything.

I can’t help but look at this spineless response and see it in contrast to the previous administration. You know how gansta they are? DICK CHENEY IS STILL TALKING SMACK!

Somewhere in the course of my reading today, which I should have been able to backtrack and find but couldn't, a Black female writer had written that Jones was punished by Beck for being a Black man breathing too loudly. (If you know who wrote that, please remind me.) I have been wondering since the Obama Campaign distanced itself from Jeremiah Wright if FOX News would be able to push President Obama apart from his supporters, and now the answer is clear.

I had a lot of time to think about this while I used the heat gun and the scraper, the orbital sander, the two coats of primer, two more coats of paint. The administration has made many false steps and mistakes along the way, but this is the one we will regret for decades. Bad laws can be repealed, bad policy will find its way through the courts and suffer reversal, but this is different. From the very beginning, Candidate Obama demonstrated a peculiar refusal to recognize the Republicans were not just trying to beat him. They're planning to kill him. Beck's taking Jones's job and reputation is just the beginning of a political nightmare that will make Clinton's impeachment look like a church picnic, and the worst part of it is that Mr. Obama is going to let Murdoch, Ailes and Beck do it. This weekend, the president could have called out Beck and stood with Jones, but he didn't. No loyal supporter could be without blemish, and no past is pure. No one close to the president is safe, and we will see them destroyed one by one when Democrats do not stand together. For all intents and purposes, the skinny kid with ten bucks in his pocket has stood up in the cafeteria and announced he'll be available for beatings every afternoon on the playground at 3:45.

What bully wouldn't take him up on it?



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