by Victor Davis Hanson
New Communique from the Ministry of Truth
At one point, the Obama administration was bragging about bagging one Van Jones; Valerie Jarrett, in fact, even gushed that they had been scouting the erstwhile mostly unknown Jones for quite a while. The word czar was employed of his new responsibilities, and we were subsequently lectured that “over $80 million” in stimulus money was going to be under Jones’s control — given his innovative “green jobs” approach that married civil rights with radical environmentalism.
And now? The ministry has downgraded that now inoperative statement, and insisted that Jones, after all, was not really an unexamined czar, but rather a mere informal “advisor”.
Himself — or in the Stars?
Jones himself, without any introspection, alleged that some vicious “smear campaign” did him in, but did not elaborate on what he meant. Is it not one thing to invoke the bogeyman Glenn Beck, but quite another to list in detail the ways in which Jones had been defamed and lied about?
Had Jones not signed a Truther petition, asking to investigate George Bush’s supposed role in 9/11 (Re: on the one hand, we are supposed to believe that Jones was a brilliant Yale law graduate,* on the other, that he did not understand the simple English wording of the petition?), he might have survived the other inanities.
One Act Too Many?
We can attribute his “Republicans are a—holes” remark to lecture theatrics. I don’t care whether he fashionably claims he was some sort of radicalized communist, or even worry much about all the other silly, melodramatic self-characterizations of his own would-be importance. But the racist slurs about white polluters of the ghetto, the white mass murderers in the schools, and George Bush the petroleum crack-head were the sort of things that usually get one fired or demoted (cf. Trent Lott’s remark).
Bill Carter Redux
What we are now seeing with Obama’s coterie is a sort of Billy Carterism — after a while what seems at first outlandish gradually becomes repugnant. Half of the country is now furious at Obama because they are starting to see that Ayers, Khalidi, Meeks, Pfleger, and Wright were representational, rather than aberrational; that is, the associates that for 30 years were the natural friends and role models of Obama proved hard to shake and appear buffoonish 24/7. And stranger still, Obama himself seems surprised that they keep reappearing, as if one so easily can throw under the bus decades of choices, attitudes, and second natures.
What do I mean by “representational”?
There is a strange pseudo-culture in America, of which Obama is a perfect example. Millionaire Michael Moore announces, “Capitalism is evil” as he hypes promotion of his moneymaking new movie. Oliver Stones praises Chavez, as the dictator shuts down voices of dissent — yet Stone himself could not make a movie in Venezuela as he does here. So too the murderer Che becomes a popular T-shirt emblem among the college elite. Van Jones calls Bush a “crackhead” but then in self-important style flashes on his website, “As a tireless advocate for disadvantaged people and the environment, Van helped to pass America’s first ‘green job training’ legislation: the Green Jobs Act, which George W. Bush signed into law as a part of the 2007 Energy Bill.” Bush is a crackhead in front of some audiences, compliant supporter to others?
Otherwise quite content Americans, getting rich and famous in the free market under the aegis of U.S. freedom and security, have not only the luxury to play the court jester, but see it as a wise investment. Moore would never go to Cuba for brain surgery. Stone would never criticize the Bolivian government while he was living in Bolivia. No Harvard undergraduate would have liked to join occasionally murderous Che in the jungle.
So too it is with middle-class guys like Jones and Obama. Barack Obama, raised by white grandparents, sent to prep school, and educated at the Ivy League, realized that avenues are not so easily opened to the nerdy Barry Dunhams of the world. Jones grasped that one Anthony Jones who was admitted to Yale Law School might actually have to study, compete for grades, and then go apprentice at a grinding law firm entry-level job.
But as Jones relates, it was far easier to be a “hell raiser” at Yale. What that meant I think was that in lieu of studying (“Yale didn’t have any grades”), Jones knew that he could say and do almost anything he wished among rather wealthy (and to be honest, rather nerdy) white and Asian people, playing on both their guilt, and on their vicarious sense of adventure and cutting-age revolutionary romance — and do pretty well. And so he did.
Very quickly, as his subsequent career attests in a variety of “organizing” jobs, Jones discovered that he could tease and provoke white liberals by posing as some sort of wild (but actually quite safe) revolutionary figure who would call America an “apartheid” system, or dream of a “redistribution of wealth” or praise the advantages of social revolution through hip hop music (”I don’t believe the true power of the people can be confined to a ballot box…We need to be about the whup-ass. Somebody’s f***in’ up somewhere… They have names and job descriptions. You have to be creative about how you engage the enemy, because if you do it on his terms, the outcome is already known.”) — all the while living a rather mundane bourgeois existence jetting around for princely lecture fees, hyping a book, trying to button-hole celebrities, and finally getting close to his exemplar Barack Obama — who likewise had parlayed Barry Dunham of a Honolulu prep school into Barack Obama, exotic avatar of revolutionary hope and change.
The two almost on spec can turn on the authentic “street talk” cadences when they wish to seem romantic to liberals and authentic to minorities, and then without thinking switch into nerdese when they wish to convince politicians and the public at large that they are properly circumspect and wonkish — and they can do all this in the classical delusion that one who creates inauthentic identities at opportune times, will not himself finally be disbelieved by all. In short, I think Obama has become Geraldo at month nine of his four-year term.
A Modest Suggestion
Had Van Jones wished to help Americans transcend its energy crisis by marrying minority concerns with environmentalism, he could have quietly dropped all the police-monitoring, race-baiting, and narcissistic agitation, and simply stayed hard at work in Oakland, convincing residents to curtail drug usage, illegitimacy, and gang violence and instead install solar panels, use hybrids, and fix up energy-inefficient homes — the sort of things that corporations are eager to subsidize. Such workmanlike public service, however, does not really allow one to change one’s name, reinvent oneself as Trotsky on the barricades, and tease out of liberals a quite good career.
None of this is really new. Bill Ayers went right back to Chicago for his inheritance and influence-peddling and resumed the prep-school existence bequeathed to him by his father — that alone offered the platform and subsidies to spout off in praise of Hugo Chavez. Such a faux-persona made him romantic and “neat” in the way a tweedy liberal professor in the school of education churning out studies supporting affirmative action is not.
Live and Let Live?
I have no problem with all of the above.
If the corporate-created money in the Ivy League, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the George Soros think-tanks, or NPR wishes to either subsidize or publicize radical-chic agit-prop, it seems no different than the networks running sitcoms, that likewise are sometimes funny, but usually banal.
No, the rub in my mind comes in when the public is asked to accept a Czar who boasts “about the whup-ass. Somebody’s f***in’ up somewhere… They have names and job descriptions. You have to be creative about how you engage the enemy, because if you do it on his terms, the outcome is already known.” I prefer that our taxes not go to subsidize that world view, or for that matter anyone who promotes the lie that his own government was responsible for murdering 3,000 of its own, rather than radical Islamic killers led by Mohammed Atta on the orders of Osama bin Laden.
The “Whup Ass”
Van Jones can do his “whup ass” through corporate benefactions, but not on Joe Sixpack’s weekly tax deductions. At least I think that is what the controversy is all about. Had Jones been white, Asian, or Hispanic, and in his many diatribes just substituted the word “black” when he employed “white”, and replaced “Bush” with “Obama,” then the Left would really have conducted a smear campaign. But such are the times we live in, that a Jones feels he can abuse the public discourse and insult the intelligence of the public, confident that when called on it, the refuge of “racist!” is always there.
What to make of all this, the rather insignificant firing of a rather insignificant administration official?
Barak Obama did not transcend race as promised. Nor was there a racial backlash against him as his supporters both feared and now charge.
Rather the mood is weariness. One major reason Obama’s polls have dropped is the public resentment of this spate of allegations of racism.
The slurring of the police in response to the Gates’s rants seems to be amplified ad nauseam by others around Obama or his supporters in general. Racism we are told explains why the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee won’t pay his taxes (at least I think his own sinking star is why Rangel lashed out at supposedly racist Americans opposed to the healthcare bill). Racism accounts for the poor political skills of the Governor of New York. Racism is the font of the Town Hall movement. And racism explains why one must resign from a U.S. government that he has accused of murdering 3,000 of his own, when bin Laden himself had repeatedly bragged of his authorship of such mass destruction.
Nothing is so fatal to a con as boredom. Tragically, when a Rangel, Paterson, Jones, or Obama — all enjoying privileges and successes that 300 million Americans might only dream of — start in on the now accustomed trope, the public turns the channel and sighs “Been there, done that.” And I think they really mean it this time.
*Here is Jones on his Yale Law Review education, a version of the Jason Blairpost facto trashing of the New York Times: “I was accepted to both places, and decided to go to Yale because Yale didn’t have any grades and was smaller than Harvard. I figured, once I enroll I’m guaranteed to graduate, so I can just go and be a radical hell raiser student, and they can’t do anything about it. Which is pretty much what happened.”
©2009 Victor Davis Hanson