Van Jones: The Green House, Redux

The Spring 2009 issue of Shelterforce ran a brief about Van Jones’ being named White House special advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for the White House Council on Environmental Quality: the “Green Jobs Czar,” to use a more foreboding title favored by the media.

So, it’s our journalistic responsibility to follow up on any story that warrants follow-up, and, of course, we can put this particular Van Jones story to bed. Last week, Jones, an environmental advocate, attorney, and author, resigned after it was discovered that his name was tied to an unsavory 9/11 petition — following a cable news “git ‘em” campaign amid a swirl of misguided paranoia, misinformation, and shameless cynicism.

But all that said, his resignation was the right choice, particularly at a time when the country keeps getting distracted while trying to keep its eyes on the prize. We don’t need another Daschle, Wright, or Gates episode.

During his brief tenure within the administration, Jones worked to advance the president’s agenda of creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and use renewable resources. Jones will also help to shape and advance the administration’s energy and climate initiatives with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities.

Or, as Shelterforce reported back in April:

The appointment is viewed as something of a bellwether for the green jobs movement. Jones, a founder of Green For All, a national organization that promotes an inclusive green economy, and a New York Times bestselling author, could be pivotal in assuring major federal investments that support the growth of a green economy.

Coulda’ been.

However, while it can come off as putting an unrealistic positive spin on an unfortunate situation, arguments have abounded in recent days that suggest Jones is better off in the private and nonprofit sectors; more effective than he could have been as a bureaucrat.

Arianna Huffington recently wrote that “the real Van Jones is a thoughtful leader who knows how to use words to move people to action. To stick him behind a desk, working out the details of tax credits for green jobs — incredibly important though the job is — was never the best use of his unique and abundant skills.”

And then today, I came across this post on AlterNet titled 5 Reasons Why Van Jones and Progressives are Better Off With Jones Out of the White House.

Clumsy headlines aside, the AlterNet post argues that while he was well known in his circles, Jones is now more of a household name, who can make more of a difference with “a renewed charge to speak the truth.”

So while it’s a wrap on this Van Jones news item, it’s more than likely there will be more to come.

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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