(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—Some jobs require a bit more on the resume than just having good references, experience and a knack for the position you’re applying for. A certain amount of ideological responsibility is needed for you to serve in some positions, for example, members of the FBI can’t get actively involved in politics. Why? Because their job is to be loyal to the government and the constitution, as private citizens they can vote for who they want but as representatives of the government they have to tow a different line than the rest of us. This may not sound fun or fair, but it’s the truth, and it’s one of the reasons why Van Jones needed to resign from the Obama administration. He had every right to express his beliefs as a private citizen, but as a member of the government some of his beliefs were just not acceptable.
Van Jones’ abrupt resignation Sept. 5, came after he became the target of Fox News comedian Glenn Beck. On the surface Beck was doing a public service. He had begun identifying the “czars” of the Obama administration; men and women in positions of power that he saw as having unfettered power and control over American life that needed to be kept in check. Van Jones, an Obama administration advisor on Green Jobs was first on his list, and Beck proceeded to tear down just about anything Jones had done in his stellar career. A mere month prior to his resignation Jones had called the GOP in Congress a-holes, he’d worked with a noted Marxist group in the 1990s and was pretty far to the left on most issues. But the biggest problem that Beck and many other conservatives had was that Van Jones had signed the 9/11 truther’s petition calling for increased investigations into whether or not the Bush administration was responsible for the attacks on 9/11. When this news hit the mainstream press, Jones bid a hasty farewell and resigned from his position over the weekend.
Glenn Beck did the right thing in outing Jones’ beliefs, but not because he was really concerned about the future of this country as he consistently stated. Beck went after Jones because the organization that Jones founded “Color of Change” had gone after Glenn Beck. After Beck called President Obama a racist “who hated White people” last month Color of Change organized a boycott that cost the Fox program over 33 sponsors including big names like Verizon, Nutrisystem and Lowes. So essentially Beck lost money and went after the head of the serpent, and Jones quit his job. The score seems to be tied one-one.
Regardless of his questionable reasons, Glenn Beck had every right to investigate Van Jones’ background as a member of the U.S. government that we all pay for. While it is perfectly okay for private citizens to question whether or not the government would be responsible for killing thousands in the name of starting a Mideast war that couldn’t be justified otherwise, it’s not okay for government employees to “publicly” express those views. Would it make sense if McDonald’s executive board employed someone who believed that meat was murder? Of course not, nor does it make sense for the federal government to employ someone who publicly believes that our nation is run by a bunch of assassins. If Van Jones was a member of Congress this would be okay, his beliefs would represent those in his district but as a direct government employee it’s a borderline national security risk to have someone like that working in the White House.
It’s important to remember in all of this that Van Jones is an incredibly talented and qualified individual. He’s written best selling books, has more awards than you can shake a stick at, and the nation is better off for having advocates like him, just not in government. And regardless of what the right-wing press tries to say, he is not an extremist by any stretch of the imagination. As recently as 2006, Pew Center polls showed that over 36 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government had something to do with 9/11, compared to 11 percent of Americans who don’t think President Obama was born in the United States today. So the issue isn’t whether Van Jones has a right to his beliefs, (he does), or if his beliefs are out of the mainstream, (they aren’t), but they are beyond the pale for serving this country at the highest level, and that’s something that even Glenn Beck and I can agree on.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)