Bachmann is right (about a White House czar with a communist past)

Van Jones, right, listens to energy executive T. Boone Pickens
REUTERS/Steve Marcus
Van Jones, right, listens to energy executive T. Boone Pickens during a roundtable at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Aug. 10, 2009.

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.

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann

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.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/27/2009 - 11:26 am.

    Eric, you silly boy…Rep. Bachmann is *always* right!

    If this is the worst that turns up in Obama’s administration, I’ll be shocked.

    Funny how so many scandals that erupt around leftists are waved away with a haughty “It’s not illegal.”

    We’ll keep our eyes peeled for your response from the White House. But in the mean time, if you hear strange clicks or buzzing on your cell phone, or if it’s warm when you pick it up, even though you haven’t used it for awhile, remember it’s not paranoia if people really are watching you!

  2. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/27/2009 - 11:43 am.

    For those who see the present administration as hoping to promote a government modeled on the socialist societies of the world the presence in the power circle of someone actively promoting “communist” ideas of society would be a threat.

    For myself, the presence of someone who had once thought a socialist model was the answer would be a strong point, if he had thus perceived the weaknesses of such a system and abandoned those ideas.

    I am much more interested in knowing what Mr. Van Jones’s CURRENT thinking on the best government model is.

    If Mr. Black’s statement that he is “now an avowed capitalist” is accurate, it would seem he has had an intellectual about face. If so, his insights in “power house” discussions would be more helpful than threatening, in my view.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/27/2009 - 11:51 am.

    Lesser of two evils:

    All I can say about ‘Czarina’ Bachman (no research necessary here; first-label, probably), thank the gods the man, Jones never carried the other label…being a ‘corrupted capitalist’.

  4. Submitted by Aubrey Immelman on 08/27/2009 - 12:01 pm.

    I’m surprised that the communist turned up in the Obama administration.

    Usually, you find a communist under every bush.

  5. Submitted by Matt Linngren on 08/27/2009 - 12:05 pm.

    I love how the Congresswoman stupidly likens czars to Communism, as if they are the same thing. Any student of history will note the irony.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/27/2009 - 12:09 pm.

    Well… I guess that just goes to prove the ENTIRE Obama administration is communist, doesn’t it… birds of a feather and all that?!

    If the inspiration for the radicalism of Mr. Jones was a communist perspective, what’s the influence for all the birthers, and those who are determined to decivilize and thereby derail the health care discussion with loud, obnoxious chanting and inane questions, none of which have anything to do with the actual issues at hand (including commentary on the weasel)?

    It always looks and smells like nascent fascism to me. The Bush Administration, itself, certainly had fascist tendencies and did many things that resembled fascism.

    The interesting thing is, Mr. Jones seems to have decided that this was not a useful course of action, nor an adequate perspective.

    When will we hear similar reformation of attitudes and actions from anyone in Cheney/Buschco, from the “let’s invade Iraq based on misrepresentations and outright lies” neocons, and all the gun-toting fascists attending public political events (who would have been arrested and shipped off to Guantanamo or someplace worse if they had done so at a Republican event during the eight years when Cheney/Bushco were in charge). When will these folks desert their fascist tendencies and admit that they were not useful (or even constitutional)?

  7. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 08/27/2009 - 12:17 pm.

    Is anyone else waiting for Eric the Red to post a fact check on a Dem. In the last week we’ve got the Governor and one of three house republican down. So we can expect Kline tomorrow and Paulson on Monday.

  8. Submitted by Jazziette Devereaux on 08/27/2009 - 12:24 pm.

    Pot calling the kettle black?

    Bachmann should be tried for treason after calling for Americans to be armed and dangerous and labeling the President anti-American.

    Btw…why was Bachmann one hour late for her own event about Social Security? And then she only stayed for ten minutes? LOL

    Minnesota deserves better!

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/27/2009 - 01:09 pm.

    Note that Jones is not saying that he was a member of the Communist Party (American or otherwise), much less a Soviet Sympathizer.
    Just that he was enamored of a particular political philosophy and associated with others with similar interests.

    Andf of course Bachmann may not be aware that (contrary to urban myth) she will collect Social Security as well as her generous congressional pension.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/27/2009 - 02:32 pm.

    Britt, my opposition to governmental intrusion into our privacy goes deep.

    I’ve always been amazed that the people who have been howling to the rafters about the Patriot Act (which I also oppose) can be so wholly ignorant to the wholesale shredding of the fourth Amendment that occurred under Clinton to further the fatally flawed “war on drugs”.

    In fact, the abuses being uncovered the last few weeks regarding the Metro Strike Force Gang can be traced back directly to Bill Clinton’s pen.

    As to Jones, it’s my opinion that anyone that could ever subscribe to radicalism, Communism and\or Anarchy is forever rendered unfit for service in our government. Communists never undergo a genuine conversion before they’ve tasted life under Communist rule.

    I’m grateful, as should we all be, that despite the corruption and chaos that followed the Chi-town crew to Washington, there are still loyal American patriots like Michele Bachmann in there to keep us informed.

  11. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/27/2009 - 10:54 pm.

    Mr. Swift’s opposition to the Patriot Act and the War on Drugs is noteworthy, and even somewhat honorable. It’s always easier for liberals to swallow libertarianism than conservativism, because the former is at least somewhat logically consistent and doesn’t depend on appeals to religion to meddle in others’ business.

    Having said this, let’s recognize that communism, depending greatly on the context and specific variation, can be intellectually defensible. The beauty of this country should be that opinions about these matters shouldn’t simply be written off because they’re unusual, only if they’re based on lies or illogical. Just as a consistent case can be made for certain brands of libertariaism, a person can make a solid case for, at the least, a brand of more cooperative living within the confines of our constitutional government, which could maybe fall under the umbrella of communism (I don’t know exactly what Van Jones is referring to). I don’t support such a thing, but I don’t think it’s outside the realm of at least passing interest.

    There are those with ideas that are hateful, bigoted, and/or theocratic… these are ideas that should be quickly dismissed and ignored, and mark the purveyor as someone that must do much to re-earn the public’s trust. Communism is none of those things. Wrong, perhaps, but both the author of the article and the commenters treat this as something outlandish, the name a pejorative, something that demands explanation from the administration. This seems pretty unnecessary.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/28/2009 - 09:16 am.

    Question: Can anyone name one Communist government that did not make the liquidation of it’s opponents the very first order of business?

    Question: Is anyone unaware of the fact that Stalin’s butcher bill made Hitler look like a rank amature?

    Question: Can anyone name a Democraticly governed country from which it’s citizens are forced to risk life and limb to leave?

    Question: Is anyone really interested in aguing the merits of finding desk space in the White House for a Communist?

  13. Submitted by Peter Rachleff on 08/28/2009 - 12:24 pm.

    In her brilliant historical study, MANY ARE THE CRIMES: MCCARTHYISM IN AMERICA (Princeton University Press, 1999), Ellen Schrecker (Professor of History, Yeshiva University) argues compellingly that anti-communism has had a much greater impact in US history than communism. I would expect a journalist of Eric Black’s experience and sophistication to know that, and, therefore, to be cautious in his opening the door to the likes of Michelle Bachmann’s use of “communism” as a bogeyman. Better to take a careful look at Van Jones’ remarkable career, from Yale Law School to the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, California, and its critical work against police brutality (an issue which certainly has more presence and resonance in the Twin Cities today than does “communism”), to his analytical work on environmental racism and environmental justice, linking the fate of communities of color to the fate of our environment. Jones has helped transform environmentalism from a “let’s save the redwoods” to a “let’s protect our children from lead paint, arsenic and asbestos filled dumps, and poisoned communities.” He has had a huge positive impact on the lives of millions of Americans, not only impacting their everyday milieus but also how they think about and act upon those milieus.
    While I expect Michelle Bachmann to miss the boat on a story, I expect better from Eric Black.

  14. Submitted by David Roknich on 08/28/2009 - 06:17 pm.

    Frankly, I find her quite attractive in a natural, earthy and sexual kind of way -:) Michelle look a lot nicer than the knee-jerk reaction from Alaska that her party has chosen as spokesmodel.

    I bet she would kick me out of bed as soon as she finds out that I like the idea of having a CPUSA memeber in the whitehouse -:)

    the working poor have been victimized far too long!

    The current CPUSA platform concurs with the Democratic ideals this country was founded on, and believes a counterbalance is needed to the benefits our taxpayers have bestowed upon our richest and least productive citizens FAR TOO LONG!

    YEAH! (applause)

    I was beginning to get a bit disappointed with O’bama but now I am a believer, Amen, brother Barack Obama!

  15. Submitted by Martin Bates on 08/30/2009 - 12:59 pm.

    Van Jones was a founder of STORM, a radical communist group, based in Oakland. For you lefties to cut him slack, or give him a pass, is just so typical of the entire Obama network of supporters.
    Here is some info on STORM:

    Has anyone else noticed that the now popular phrase, “community organizer” seems to equate socialist or communist?

  16. Submitted by david granneman on 08/31/2009 - 09:12 pm.

    hello all
    never in my 60 years of existance did i think i would ever see the day when democrates would be defending a self proclaimed communist in the white house. do they really think a communist will be able to create the green jobs this country needs to recover from the recession.

Leave a Reply