WASHINGTON -- If Van Jones was a symbol of President Barack Obama's secret leftist agenda at work, the Communist mole he tried to burrow in the White House, a new memoir by the controversial former administration official is sure to disappoint Tea Party backers.
Jones notes that as a "green jobs" adviser to Obama, he didn't actually work out of the White House, but instead from a row of townhouses across the street. "People always want to know about a particular staffer's level of access to the president," he writes. "As for me, I was only in the same room with Obama a handful of times."
And now that he's out of the room, Jones is able to critique the White House. His principal objection to the political strategy carried out by the administration during its first two years, when it had majority control of both chambers of Congress, relates to the way it used its 13-million-member list of activists and donors to Obama for America. Instead of deploying the political force necessary to counter the Tea Party and create the space for more progressive legislation, Jones argues, the White House crafted the legislation first, then asked its backers to rally behind it -- but not in the streets, or anywhere else that conservatives might see them and become angered. (Targeting Democrats, then-White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel famously advised, was "fucking retarded." He later apologized to the disabled for using the term, but not to liberal groups. That part he stood by.)
OFA, writes Jones, "was mainly known for asking people to donate online and to make phone calls to Congress people. It was confined by the insider strategy, which the DNC and White House pursued. Rather than mobilizing the people and then cutting a deal from a position of strength, the White House tended to seek a deal first and then use OFA to mobilize people to fight for the pre-compromised position. This approach may have made sense inside the halls of power, but it left many grassroots supporters cold."
Jones' new book, Rebuild The Dream,, which will be released Tuesday but is already selling briskly online, is named for a new advocacy organization he launched with the assistance of MoveOn.org. He says it's a MoveOn for economic issues.
The organization is focusing on two key issues: skyrocketing student debt and foreclosures. If the American Dream consists of going to college so that you can get ahead and own a home, the foreclosure crisis and soaring cost of school is cutting directly at its heart.
The amount of outstanding student debt in the nation now stands at roughly one trillion dollars -- more than all the credit card debt combined. Many graduates are now paying the equivalent of a mortgage payment each month, yet they don't own a home.
Jones' memoir lays out a way forward for Democrats and liberals who are still hoping for change, but no longer expect Obama to deliver it alone -- a group Jones refers to as "post-hope Democrats."
The book is written for that audience, but it also includes insider details and a recounting of his run-in with Glenn Beck, whose persistent attacks over Jones' past associations eventually led to Jones leaving the administration.
Jones reports that he initially asked Color of Change leader James Rucker to stop a boycott against Beck, worried that it would backfire. Beck succeeded in ousting Jones, but the assault on his advertising base was also successful, and Beck is no longer on Fox News.
It took a toll on Jones. "Unless you have been at the center of a media firestorm, it is almost impossible to describe how unreal it is," he writes. "There is a face on television, and it is yours. But the commentary around that face is so distorted that it may as well be the visage of another person. One day, you are a three-dimensional person, known to your friends and colleagues in all your complexity, good and bad. The next day, you are flattened-out, two-dimensional, billboard-sized caricature of yourself on your worst day. Your name is everywhere, but you no longer exist.
"The disconnect between your inflated televised image and the logistics of your practical life is particularly disorienting," he continues. "You still live in the same house. No limo appears to take you anywhere, just because your face is on television. You still have to run down the street in the rain to catch the bus and the train."