On Van Jones: An RBC Dissent

People are calling for Van Jones to resign, but Jay Bybee remains a federal judge with life tenure. Discuss.

It’s always risking disagreeing with Harold, because the odds of being wrong asymptotically approach 100%. But I’m going to, anyway: I think that Jones should stay.

This is all in the manner of Inside-the-Beltway scalp-chasing: you give them one, they’ll ask for another. Van did something really stupid five years ago. That does not disqualify him for public service.

Put another way: until James Inhofe, Tom Coburn, and Charles Grassley resign from the Senate for stoking fears of Obama death-panels; until Wally Herger resigns from the House for approving right-wing terrorists; and until Jay Bybee resigns from the federal bench for approving a torture memo that was so shoddily written and morally bankrupt that it was withdrawn by his Republican successor, I think Jones is within his rights to stay.

I’ve known Van for nearly 20 years; we were law school classmates. We were not friends; indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone from my law school class who really was friends with him. Back then, Van was arrogant, obnoxious, and self-promoting. I’ve heard he’s changed, although I would also be willing to trade Van for Bob Mcdonnell. I hope so.

But let’s be serious: when Dick Cheney is talked up as a Presidential candidate, and given fawning interviews in the national press, then it is obscene for the political commentariat to say that Van Jones is a problem.

At some point, someone has to tell the press corps that they should stop taking journalism lessons from Glenn Beck, and start paying attention to a real issue. This is not one of them. As Republicans would say, it’s old news. End of story.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

2 thoughts on “On Van Jones: An RBC Dissent”

  1. The inspiration for the petition was probably the right-wing attacks on Bill Clinton during the 1990's. The lesson some Democrats took from that is that baseless accusations work. As far as I know, the people who called for an investigation of the Clintons' involvement in Whitewater didn't pay any price for being wrong, and they got an investigation that seriously hurt Bill Clinton.

    I don't like to see the political left copy the tactics of the political right, but what we need is some sort of mutual cease-fire going forward. I don't think that signing the petition disqualifies Jones from public service. I also don't think that signing it was "really stupid." It's just reminder of the level of political discourse five years ago.

  2. As you pointed out, Mark, there's both moral and practical things at work:

    1) The ethical standards are different, by a factor of 100:1, at least; the sports metaphor would be that our player gets the boot for looking harshly at the ref, while the other team kills refs with impunity.

    2) On a practical basis, this is a losing matter – they find a midemeanor for one of our guys, who's out of the game. Meanwhile, they commit felonies with impunity. Then, they'll find another trifle in the record of another guy, and repeat. And note that they have had no hesitation whatsoever in simply making sh*t up, both now and back in the 1990's.

    And it's defensive; if Obama wishes to be a one-term president, he's on the right track.

Comments are closed.