Van Jones: From Adviser to Outsider
The former White House official on his new book and his "360-degree view" of Democrats' mistakes.
I think one of the worst mistakes he's made is not clarifying what he means when he says things like "jobs created or saved." "Or saved" always sounds like a dodge or hedge, when in fact, the jobs that he saved are probably the most important thing he did.
He spent a third of his stimulus on aid to states and cities. That means the jobs he was saving were teachers, firefighters, nurses, cops, first responders, librarians -- he saved the jobs of hundreds of thousands of America's everyday heroes, who society would collapse without. He kept the cops on the beat. He kept us from having to fight fires with a garden hose all across America. He never talked about it in those evocative terms.
TR: You also wrote about the reckless extremism of Republicans. Where and how have we seen this play out in your career and in the overall political and social climate of the country?
VJ: From ACORN to Shirley Sherrod to myself, there was a really ugly period there in 2009 where the backlashers threw the rulebook out and started manufacturing media viruses to knock out people close to the president, especially African Americans. That's a very ugly part of history, but I certainly experienced some of the worst behavior of the backlash, including personal threats and public smears.
I think we've come a long way, actually, in terms of recognizing that some of the media scandals that get whipped up are phony, but we weren't as used to it in September 2009, when I decided to step down.
TR: When it comes to those "manufactured media viruses," will it make a difference that Andrew Breitbart isn't with us anymore?
VJ: I think that the genie is out of the bottle with regards to people's knowledge that you can trick the media with sensational video, so I don't think that tactic is going to go away. The people who invented the nuclear bomb are gone, but weapons are still widely available. I think only vigilance on the part of the media and on the part of the viewing public will be a barrier to Breitbart-like stunts, and I think that's where we have to place our faith.
TR: How much of the use of those "weapons" against you and others, Sherrod, ACORN and the Obama administration has been fueled by or embraced because of racism?