On local radio station KKMS (AM-980) on Tuesday, Michele Bachmann said that among the many Obama Administration advisers who are referred to as “czars,” there was one who “has actually been associated with the Communist Party.” She didn’t say which czar she was talking about.
Hmm, says me to myself. If that were true, you’d think I would’ve heard about it before. And those who believe in the value of fact-checking the statements of public officials have certainly found cause to pay attention to Rep. Bachmann. So I did a little checking and sure enough, Obama adviser Van Jones, special advisor for Green Jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has indeed described himself as a former communist.
And, although the use of the term “czar” has no official meaning, Jones has indeed been referred as Obama’s “green jobs czar.”
There’s more, of course, to Jones’ story than his communist past. He was radicalized by the Rodney King beating. He did jail time. He subsequently earned a law degree and wrote the N.Y. Times best-seller “The Green Collar Economy.” And he is now an avowed capitalist.
But Jones has publicly stated that at one time he considered himself a communist, as in this 2005 newspaper profile:
…In jail, he said, “I met all these young radical people of color — I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, ‘This is what I need to be a part of.'” Although he already had a plane ticket [to Washington, where he had a job arranged before he got arrested], he decided to stay in San Francisco. “I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary.”
In the months that followed, he let go of any lingering thoughts that he might fit in with the status quo. “I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th,” he said. “By August, I was a communist.” In 1994, the young activists formed a socialist collective, Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM, which held study groups on the theories of Marx and Lenin and dreamed of a multiracial socialist utopia. They protested police brutality and got arrested for crashing through police barricades.
It is not illegal for communists or former communists to serve in the White House, but it is noteworthy. I have inquired of the White House whether Pres. Obama knew of this communist past when he appointed Jones and whether they wish to comment on the matter. I will pass along their reply.