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Published: Saturday, 9/12/2009

Exit Van Jones

AROUND midnight on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, the White House announced Van Jones had resigned as President Obama's "green jobs czar."

"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Mr. Jones said in his resignation letter. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide." The "lies and distortions" consisted of reporting Mr. Jones' arrest during a riot, and quoting, accurately, from statements Mr. Jones had made and from petitions he had signed.

Mr. Jones was arrested during the rioting in Los Angeles in 1992 that followed the acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King.

Mr. Jones spoke of that experience in a 2005 interview with a newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area: "I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28, and then the verdicts came down on April 29," he told the East Bay Express. "By August, I was a communist."

Mr. Jones attributed his conversion to the people he met during his incarceration:

"I met all these radical young people of color, I mean really radical, communists and anarchists," he told the East Bay Express. "It was like 'this is what I need to be a part of.' I spent the next 10 years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary."

Mr. Jones was arrested again in 1999 during the anti-free trade riots in Seattle.

In 1994, Mr. Jones was one of the founders of STORM, a Marxist-Leninist group whose hero was Chinese Communist dictator Mao Zedong.

But what did Mr. Jones in was the revelation that in 2004 he had signed a petition calling on then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer to investigate whether the Bush administration had been behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Mr. Jones acknowledged he'd signed the petition but claimed he hadn't read it carefully and that it did not represent his views. The veracity of this claim was called into question when it was reported that Mr. Jones had been one of the organizers of a "truther" rally in San Francisco in January, 2002.

Reporters also uncovered racist statements Mr. Jones has made, including this one from January of last year: "The white polluters and white environmentalists are essentially steering poison into the people-of-color communities."

With the exception of the indefatigable Jake Tapper of ABC News, none of those who reported these things were part of the "mainstream" media.

The first time that readers of the New York Times or the Washington Post or viewers of CBS or NBC were made aware there was a controversy about Mr. Jones was when they reported his resignation.

It was chiefly blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit and Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck who dug up the details of Mr. Jones' colorful past. To do so, they utilized that newfangled instrument called "Google," with which reporters for the Times and Post seem to be unfamiliar.

The Obama Administration would like to have the controversy over Mr. Jones end with his dead-of-night resignation. But it should be just beginning.

Jeffrey Lord, who was a speechwriter in the Reagan administration, noted that in administrations past, the Secret Service would not have permitted someone with Mr. Jones' background to enter the White House with a visitor's pass. Yet Mr. Jones was made a high-level appointee with considerable influence.

For Mr. Jones to get a White House job, even more senior aides to President Obama either had to be unaware of his background, or indifferent to it. The former suggests an appalling degree of incompetence. The latter is more likely:

"Ooh. Van Jones. We were so delighted to recruit him to the White House," White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told a conference of left-wing bloggers last month. "We were watching him for as long as he's been active out in Oakland."

Did the Secret Service object to Van Jones? If so, who overrode them? What did the President know and when did he know it?

These are questions which ought to be asked. But I doubt anyone from CBS or NBC, the New York Times or the Washington Post, will ask them.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: jkelly@post-gazette.com



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