Van Jones and Who’s Next
Paul Jay continues in Pt.2 of his discussion with Rep. Donna Edwards
at the Tides Foundation’s Momentum 2009 Conference in San Francisco.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. We’re back at "Momentum" Conference of the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, and joining us again is Donna Edwards, congressional representative from Maryland. Thanks, Donna.
REP. DONNA EDWARDS (D-MD): Thank you.
JAY: So why is it a right-wing talk show host seems to be able to decide who works in the White House? And just let me fill in for people at home whoï¿½just in case you don’t know, Van Jones, a very popular progressive leader, especially in the environmental movement, was appointed to be in charge of the green-jobs program in the White House. And after a campaign by right-wing talk show host Glenn Beck dredging up things from his past, he’s now been forced to resign. What do you make of all this?
EDWARDS: Well, I think that it demonstrates that the opponents to President Obama and to the kind of change that he promised to deliver for the American people are relentless, and the fact that they went after Van Jones is just another demonstration of that. And, frankly, it’s not actually dissimilar to the way that they went after President Obama when he was campaigning to be president, and so we shouldn’t be surprised by that. But this administration and we as progressives actually can’t be sidelined and sidetracked by people who are attacking folks in the administration for things that they said before they were appointed into their offices. And I think it’s just actually been a real shame.
JAY: Now, there weren’t a heck of a lot of what progressives call "progressives" appointed to the White House. Van Jones was one of the most prominent people who actually got a job in this White House. They didn’t seem to protect him; you know, there was not much of a defense from the White House of Van Jones. They should have known all this was in his history. And whether they did or didn’t know, I don’t think it should have mattered. Aren’t you a little disappointed that they didn’t come out swinging on his behalf?
EDWARDS: Well, it’s actually not unlike what’s happened with the president when a number of other even nominees have gotten in trouble. And, frankly, is it that much different from the way other presidents have handled these similar kinds of things? I think the greater disappointment for me, frankly, is among progressives and progressive organizations that we also didn’t see it coming and didn’t go out there fighting for him in the kind of way that we needed to. And so this should be a lesson for all of us.
JAY: A lesson for all of us, but I’m interviewing a lot of progressive Democrats, and there’s a tremendous tendency, personally, I find, of kind of letting Obama off the hook on certain things. I mean, I was kind of surprised how little they gave in terms of defending Van Jones. And also I was quite surprised that, you know, even though that he supposedly called himself a communist of some type at one point, what they actually went after him for was questioning 9/11 and questioning the official version of 9/11, and I would venture to guess the majority of Americans have a lot of unanswered questions on 9/11. And it’s very interesting: tying him to the Truth Movement is the thing that kind of sunk him. So didn’t we need some frank talk about all of this?
EDWARDS: I don’t know. I mean, to me it actually was neither here nor there what they were going to tie him to. The reality is that the corporate interests were so opposed to what he’s trying to do around energy and to the president’s agenda around energy reform that that’s why they went after him. They would have found any reason to go after Van Jones or anyone else, because they don’t like the president’s energy agenda. And, again, very, very instructive. And so I don’t think it was actually even so much about one thing or the other that Van Jones said; he just providedï¿½it was just a target for them, they picked it apart, they went after him, they got their [inaudible].
JAY: But that’s even more dangerous. If it’s really about substantive policy and you can oppose the policy by targeting Van Jones, then who’s next? And, I mean, in a sense the national discourse, the agenda for that, is being handed over to right-wing talk show hosts.
EDWARDS: Well, I think the importance, again, is for this administration or any other administration to really stick to its guns. And so I’d like to see that from the administration, because I do say "Who’s next?" because there will be someone who will be next and, you know, you don’t know where that finger’s going to land or where that talk show host is going to start talking next. And, I mean, these folks have actually a really disproportionate amount of power for the number of voters they can deliver.
JAY: Voters and even viewers. The actualï¿½if they do 1.5 million viewers, they’ve gone to heaven.
EDWARDS: Well, that’s right. I mean, and so, again, I think it’s important for the administration and for the president not to be sidetracked by these attacks that are coming on, you know, talk shows that hardly anybody listens to. And, certainly, the majority of people who are actually listening to the one whose name we’re not going to mention ’cause we don’t want to give him any more publicity, those aren’t even the folks who would vote for President Obama anyway.
JAY: But is it also part of this strategy that started from day one of this kind of inclusiveness of the right? So from Rick Warren being at the inauguration, to trying to work out deals on health care with the Republican Party, the insurance companies, pharmaceutical, there’s a point here where one has to wage a real fight.
EDWARDS: Well, I mean, I give the president credit because I think he has tried to reach across the aisle. The problem is that there’s no give in the other direction. And I think we can see that really clearly on health-care reform, where the president has tried over and over and over again as he’s been rebuffed. And so I would just say to us as progressives, and I certainly would say this to the president and to the administration, it’s time for us to kind of, you know, tighten our belts and take on health-care reform and say, you know what? We’re going to do, you know, just like they did on Medicare; we’re going to win this thing in the way that we need for the American people, with or without a Republican vote.
JAY: Thanks very much.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
JAY: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.