What Van Jones Tells Us About President Obama

On Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, President Obama’s hand-picked "green jobs czar," Van Jones, resigned. It was a week too late to prevent all the revelations about Jones: his admitted agreement with communist philosophy; his membership in the 9/11 "truther" movement; his racist views on environmental policy (he accused "white polluters and white environmentalists" of "steering poison into the people of color’s communities"); his ridiculous ideas about school violence ("You’ve never seen a Columbine done by a black child … a black kid might shoot another black kid. He’s not going to shoot up the whole school"); his unmitigated hatred for President George W. Bush (he compared Bush to a crack-pipe-licking cocaine addict, and accused him of using the American flag to "beat and whip and lynch" political opponents).

Now the media, which ignored all of Van Jones’ foibles back when President Obama appointed him in March, has determined that there’s nothing more to report here. With Jones gone, all has returned to normal.

Except that one unanswered question remains: Why did the White House appoint Jones in the first place?

We were told during the 2008 campaign that President Obama was the most technologically able candidate in our history. The Obama campaign ran commercials targeting John McCain’s ignorance of the Internet. Obama was so connected that he wanted to keep using his BlackBerry from the Oval Office.

And yet he couldn’t get a single member of his administration to do a simple Google search on Van Jones.

Every tidbit of information on Van Jones was publicly available. There were videos on YouTube and articles at major websites. And yet just three weeks ago, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s special adviser, told a crowd of leftists at the Daily Kos conference that "We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House."

So, why did Obama pick Jones in the first place?

He picked Jones because he is deeply insecure about his racial status. Despite his repeated insistence that he is the culmination of the American dream of racial unity, Obama surrounds himself with racial radicals — and he has for decades. Obama’s associations with black communist Frank Marshall Davis during his teenage years, his apprenticeship to Rev. Jeremiah "G– D—America" Wright during his adult years, and his continuously comfortable relationships with racialists like Cornel West and Van Jones demonstrate his commitment to racial polarization.

Where did this commitment come from? Barack Obama has always been a man in search of identity; as he writes in "Dreams From My Father," "I was engaged in a fitful, interior struggle. I was trying to raise myself as a black man in America …" And that struggle centered on his father — a father who abandoned him in childhood, and about whom he knew little. Little, that is, except for two basic facts: Barack Obama Sr. was black, and Barack Obama Sr. was a socialist who sought to "redistribute our economic gains to the benefit of all." President Obama has always attempted to identify with his black father rather than his white grandparents, and he has therefore sought to fill the paternal gap with black racialists rather than moderates of any stripe.

The Van Jones story isn’t about another radical federal employee or even about President Obama’s addiction to executive authority (he has appointed over 30 czars with whom he meets regularly, but he has held just one cabinet meeting since his inauguration). The Van Jones story is about our president: a man who fills the void in his emotional past with "authentic" black men who have no interior struggle for definition. President Obama has incessantly injected himself into racial matters that require no clarification (see Henry Louis Gates Jr.); he has turned every debate into a racial debate (see his 2008 campaign, which repeatedly referenced his "funny name" and the fact that he does not look like the "other presidents on the dollar bills"). He does so out of convenience — few will argue openly about race with a prominent black man, no matter how extreme. More than that, however, he obsesses about race out of insecurity.

President Obama’s pathologies are playing out before us on a national stage. Unfortunately, the policies and appointees his pathologies produce are not merely wrongheaded — they are dangerous. How much racial polarization and economic and international instability must we endure to fill the hole that Barack Obama Sr. left in his son’s heart?