While I have received a few slaps on the back for breaking the news about Van Jones' appointment to the White House, I have also received vitriolic accusations (read the comments)
that my now infamous "czar" terminology somehow engendered a "maelstrom of confusion" in the press.
This has resulted in everyone from the New York Times
to the Wall Street Journal
pushing for clarification from Jones, who just an hour ago sent out a mass email to describe his new role:
I will be at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. My job will be to help shape the administration's energy and climate policy, so that climate solutions produce jobs and justice for all Americans.
I am going to be the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
If you've had your ear to the blogosphere in the past few days, you may have heard some rumors. The most prevalent call me the new "Green Jobs Czar."
But I am not going to be any kind of "Czar." If anyone were to be the "Green Jobs Czar" (a position that does not exist), it would and should be Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. She was an original sponsor of the Green Jobs Act of 2007. Obama appointed her as the first Latina — and first green leader — to head the Department of Labor. Can anyone say "Green Jobs Czarina"?
He also explained that he would not be handing out "big piles of Recovery Act cash." Darn!
My accuser also pointed out that being called the "green Perez Hilton" was not something to be proud of (uh ... no kidding!), that I had no journalistic integrity (ouch), and that I owed Van a personal apology for ...???
If anything, putting forth the term (which is widely used to describe high level positions in Washington) helped attract media attention to a hugely important appointment while prompting some clarity about Van's role as perceived by the popular press.
No, he's not going to restore 19th century czarism. No, he does not wield the green checkbook (the method for granting the $500 million allocated for green jobs training has not yet been announced). No, he will not be overseeing the DOE funding for green energy (see my post on Matt Rogers and the green stimulus checkbook
) or the HUD funding for green building.
What I'm really fascinated by is why the combination of "green" and "czar," like a mixture of two overheated chemicals, caused such a volatile reaction yesterday. Why is it OK to have a Health Czar
or a Car Czar (though that one was dropped
) or as of today a Bank Czar
, while a single late-night twitter reference to a "Green Czar" triggers a cascade of moral reprehension and angst amongst what should be a tight-knit liberal community?
Is it that the mere concept of having (FINALLY) a strong, skilled leader to help guide the development of green economic policy somehow threatens the kumbaya nature of left-wing politics? Or are people feeling like they will now be left out of the endless white board sessions or online forums to which they had grown so accustomed? Are they really worried that Van Jones, one of the most inclusive grass-roots organizers around today, is going to become somehow czar-like?
So here is my response (and of course in case it is not ABSOLUTELY crystal clear, I am just a blogger and am not speaking for Van Jones in any way):
Yes, this moment is historic and it does represent a big change in the world of community organizing, and yes there will be a LOT less time for holding hands and vegetarian potlucks.
Yes, you will be left out of the endless white board sessions and online forums. Be grateful.
Hopefully, yes, Van Jones will be stepping into his power in a big, big way. To some that may look like he's being less inclusive (though I'm sure he will still manage it) and maybe a little more czar-like. But just take a deep breath. You need to step aside and let the man do his work.
Vulnerable communities across the U.S. need him to succeed. The economy needs him to succeed. The planet needs him to succeed. In case you forgot, that is what we have all been working for.