"We have to understand. We have other patriots who love our country who have other ideas about how to solve our problems... We're patriots; they're patriots too."
That was my friend Van Jones, speaking about the Tea Party at the Summit on Jobs and America's Future in Washington last week (full disclosure: the conference was sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future which I co-direct). His analysis of the Tea Party was insightful, generous, and focused on the debate on values and ideas that has to be waged across America. He disagreed with the Tea Party, but he did not disparage them.
Contrast that to the right-wing smear merchants that have gone into high gear to slime Van Jones. Jones has been a favorite target of Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart and many castigators on the right for over a year now. The most recent ad hominem slur from Breitbart was characteristically beyond the pale.
Van Jones is an extraordinary leader, so it isn't surprising that the right has targeted him. They didn't propagate the lies about Obama's birth because he lost; they propagated them because he won big and had to be brought down. They didn't target ACORN because it was ineffective; they targeted it because it was the most effective organization registering and getting out the vote of minorities that increasingly feel locked out of the Republican Party. They don't target Planned Parenthood because it is extreme; they target it because it provides essential and popular family planning services that they bitterly oppose.
Like most progressives, I generally don't listen to nor bother to respond to right-wing bile. But the campaign against Van Jones has been unrelenting and slanderous. Van is leading efforts to build a movement that will challenge the right, so the calumny will get worse. It is worth just once to set the record straight.
Van Jones is a father, a man of faith, an entrepreneur and innovator, author and life-long champion of the poor and disenfranchised. He graduated from Yale Law School, but he rose above it, to devote his life to making America better.
He has created three remarkable advocacy organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a California-based group working for alternatives to violence; Color of Change, an on-line advocacy group for African Americans; and Green For All, to promote the creation of a clean energy economy to drive economic growth and battle poverty.
Leaders like Van see farther than most of us. Van was one of the first to understand the potential of the green industrial revolution, and the opportunity it posed for those communities that had been largely locked out of the last industrial revolution. He authored a best-selling book that helped put the term "Green-Jobs" on the map. He advocated for the first-ever piece of Green-Jobs legislation, the "Green Jobs Act of 2007, which was signed into law by none other than President George W Bush. He joined in building the Apollo Alliance and then created Green for All to champion this cause. He accepted a position in the Obama White House to help drive clean and green solutions to our economic problems.
For this, he was targeted by Fox and featured on Glenn Beck's backboard. They propagated the smears and lies that continue to this day. Rather than let the administration be dragged into that muck, Van Jones took the high road, corrected the record, and moved on. He now holds a joint appointment at Princeton University, as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Van is also a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All.
Van Jones hasn't let the right intimidate him. His electric presentations are helping to galvanize a movement to rebuild the American Dream. And the greater his leadership, the more the right recycles the slurs and lies, the more he ignores them, the more rabid they get. Breitbart illustrates the hysteria, labeling Van a "punk," "human toxin," and a " cockroach" in the course of a brief interview.
But the right has perfected the art of the big lie, repeating a falsehood over and over until people begin to think there must be something to it. Three big lies are deployed regularly in their attempt to discredit Van Jones. They get recycled through the right wing sound machine. Seldom heard is the truth. So here is the truth.
Right-Wing Slur: Van is 9/11 Truther.
Truth: Van Jones believes and has stated repeatedly that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation's soil were planned and carried out by Osama bin Laden and members of Al Qaeda. He never saw, signed, or endorsed any statement indicating otherwise. Six years ago, a group claiming to represent 9/11 families asked for his support and then attached his name, without his knowledge or permission, to abhorrent language that they never showed him. The group has since admitted they do not have his signature.
Right-Wing Slur: Van is a "Communist."
Truth: Van Jones is a leading champion of free market solutions and American innovation. His award-winning work is rooted in business-friendly, market-based ideas. His bestselling book, The Green-Collar Economy, argues that government should provide incentives for private sector innovation. Van has forged successful partnerships with green businesses and served on the board of a national business association. (And isn't this slur beyond its expiration date? The Soviet Union is no more; the Cold War is over. Global corporations vie to gain a foothold in China still governed by so-called communists. Can't we can the 50s calumnies now that we're in a new century?)
Right-Wing Slur: Van Jones is an ex-convict.
Truth: Van Jones is a law-abiding citizen and has never been to prison or convicted of any crime. Van's only scrape with the law was when he was wrongfully detained for four hours in a San Francisco warehouse where police held thousands of peaceful protesters in May 1992. A Yale Law student at the time, Van had attended the event as a legal monitor. In a lawsuit, he won monetary compensation for his false imprisonment.
Of course, refutation won't stop the lies, just as the right will never stop questioning Obama's citizenship.
But for those outside the circles of hate, understand the charges for what they are: A backhanded tribute to the past accomplishments and future potential of Van Jones as a leader and advocate for a better America.