OAKLAND, Calif. ― In the aftermath of Van Jones’ abrupt Labor Day weekend resignation as the Obama administration’s special advisor for environmental jobs, human rights and environmental organizations are expressing outrage at the barrage of attacks against the green jobs leader by Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck and other extreme right Republicans.

“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,” Jones said in his resignation letter, issued in the wee hours Sept. 6. “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 our future.”

The attacks, reminiscent of the far right’s “tea party” efforts to savage late-summer health-care town halls, centered on allegations about actions before Jones accepted the administration post last March. Among the accusations were characterizing Republicans with an expletive (for which Jones has since apologized), signing a petition to investigate whether the Bush administration allowed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (Jones has repeatedly said the petition didn’t reflect his views) and early-90s involvement in a small Marxist-oriented group.

But critics of the far-right drive saw a broader agenda.

“Van was in a very strong position to really change the way our economy works so that it works for everybody and it works for the environment, so that we can have a planet for our grandkids and great grandkids to live on,” Taj James, executive director of the Oakland-based Movement Strategy Center, told the KPFA Morning Show Sept. 8.

Emphasizing that the election of President Obama was just “the ticket to the game,” not its end, James said too many progressives have been “sitting in the bleachers watching, not out on the field playing,” allowing “a small number of very hateful people to immobilize the administration” and slow the momentum the movement built to get Obama elected.
He added, “The right wing understands that if they can use the politics of fear and distraction to paralyze this administration, they can over time take this country in a really terrible direction.”
Another perspective was offered by James Rucker, who heads Color of Change, a web-based organization dedicated to making sure African Americans and all under-represented people have a political voice regardless of race or class. Jones helped found the group but is no longer associated with it.

Rucker told Democracy Now! that Color of Change began to campaign against Beck when the right-wing pundit called Obama a racist and asserted the president had a deep-seated hatred for white people. Color of Change launched a campaign that Rucker said has resulted in nearly all Beck’s national advertisers abandoning the show.

Although Beck didn’t mention Color of Change by name, Rucker said, the talk show host “went from having mentioned Van Jones to Van becoming essentially public enemy number one in his mind, and he absolutely went about a smear campaign,” cherry-picking statements and long-ago affiliations.

Other organizations Jones helped found or has been affiliated with were also quick to express their anger.

“Smear campaigns designed to sabotage our movement for an equitable, green economy are attempts to distract people from what really matters, building a future that is green and just for everyone,” Jakada Imani, executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, said in a statement. “We’re outraged by the attacks Van and his family have suffered at the hands of those who have made it their mission to derail a clean, green and just future for our country.” Jones co-founded the center in 1996.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, who heads another organization Jones helped found ― Green for All ― called on supporters not to be distracted by “the rants of those who fear our vision,” but instead to rededicate themselves to “the issues our opponents refuse to debate: ending global warming, lifting people out of poverty, restoring the economy, and bringing health to our communities.”

And the labor-environmental-business Apollo Alliance, on whose board Jones formerly served, called Beck’s attacks on it “just the opening salvo in a smear campaign that will ramp up as the right wing continues to attack President Obama and our work to bring about energy security, climate stability and long-term economic prosperity.”
mbechtel@pww.org

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Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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