Enviros Ponder Implications of Jones Ouster
in interviews with TWI on Tuesday.
On the first day back from a long weekend, enviros huddled for a strategy session (via conference call) on Tuesday afternoon and planned to meet with Jones. Their immediate reaction to the weekend’s events was that this is a grim reminder of how hard they’ll have to fight this fall to pass a climate and energy bill.
“The primary lesson of this is that the right will stop at nothing to destroy people and use the most incredibly over-the-top hyperbole that one can imagine,” said Dan Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress.
“The lesson is that if you stick your head up too far you’re going to get clobbered,” said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. “We need more voices to stand up and be clear. … The lessons I take away from it are not very positive.” On Friday — a day before Jones submitted his resignation — Schweiger wrote a post defending Jones and calling him “one of the most powerful voices urging America to move away from old, polluting ways to a new energy economy.” Schweiger said his resignation should be evidence to greens that they need to double down on efforts to make the case for climate action.
Apollo Alliance Executive Director Cathy Calfo told TWI that the incident made it “clear to us that this not about Van Jones. It’s really about the most radical opponents of clean energy reform who are frightened about the progress we’re making on clean energy. … Hopefully people will see this for what it is, that this is not about Van but about a bigger agenda.”
Apollo is at the center of the conspiracy in Fox News host Glenn Beck’s flow charts. Jones was a board member at Apollo before joining the administration in March, and back before a conservative blogger found the 9/11 Truth petition that bore Jones’ signature, it was his work with that organization and on green jobs in general that linked him to the alleged left-wing conspiracy. The initial smear was that Jones was a communist, and that his and Apollo’s climate efforts were related to a greater agenda to destroy capitalism.
If it’s not just about Jones, but about the movement for green jobs in general, then the picture now looks a lot worse for activists working to get legislation passed this year. “We’re just getting creamed by the right wing machine here,” said Gillian Caldwell, campaign director at 1Sky. “The smear campaign on Van really bodes poorly for progressives and their ability to work in the White House.”
“This is just one example of what they’re capable of. It’s worrisome,” she continued. “We don’t have the message discipline or the catchy comeback to the ‘energy tax’ [attacks]. … We’re kind of limping along with the clean energy jobs frame.”
Caldwell also argued that it’s “beyond Van,” and that his ouster is indicative of a broader effort to thwart the clean energy agenda that he spoke for. That means that the response should be more about making the case for the issues than about arguing about why Jones should have remained in the White House, according to Caldwell. “I think it’s a mistake to focus too much energy defending the target, and not enough challenging the naysayers,” she said.
But for others, it was about Jones — and about the environmental community’s inability to defend its biggest advocate in the Obama administration. Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, put it stridently in a piece at The Huffington Post titled “We All Blew It”:
Collectively we — the environmental community, progressives, and the Obama administration — blew this, and we let our cause, our president, and Van Jones down.
This was a lynch mob and, when it started forming a month ago, we didn’t take it seriously enough.
The incident should serve as evidence of the environmental movement’s inability to see just how far the right-wing efforts will go, argued Pope. Many in the environmental community seemed to be caught off guard not just by the attack, but by its efficacy. Caldwell said the initial attacks from Beck were “treated as the kind of unnecessary and unwarranted distraction” that Jones’ allies hoped would dissipate. While it was ignored by the left, it gathered strength from the right.
And now that Beck has effectively bagged one member of the Obama team, there’s more concern about future targets in the climate and energy realm, as Beck and other right wing media have also been rallying against Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren, and against Obama’s climate and energy adviser, Carol Browner (though their campaign to paint her as a socialist seems to have died down
“Certainly this will likely energize the right-wing fringe,” said Weiss. “Their hope is to discredit the man, discredit the cause.” Yet Weiss also thinks it will be a rallying point for Jones’ allies, bringing them into the looming fall Senate battle over climate legislation with more resolve.
“Certainly people who worked with Van are going to be energized by this savaging of him,” said Weiss. “In that regard that will provide some boost.”