It’s Okay to be Embarrassing If You’re a Special Advisor

The question I asked about how Van Jones passed the Obama Administration’s vetting process has now been answered:

Van Jones, the Obama green jobs czar who resigned shortly after midnight Sunday, did not fill out the exhaustive questionnaire White House officials required of every Cabinet-level secretary and deputy-secretary position.

An administration official said special advisers to the president, or czars, are not required to fill out the questionnaire that runs 7 pages and contains 63 questions.

The entire questionnaire, the official said, is reserved for appointees who must win Senate confirmation.

Among the varied topics covered in the questionnaire: history as a lobbyist or other “legislative agent”, tax liens, bankruptcies, spousal employment, potential conflicts of interest, domestic help, internet “handles” and Facebook pages, and traffic fines in excess of $50.

Question 61 reads as follows: “Have you had any association with any person, group or business venture that could be used – even unfairly – to impugn or attack your character and qualifications for government service?”

Well, isn’t that special.

I have absolutely no opinion whatever over whether Van Jones is good, bad, or indifferent but it is indisputable that he was embarrassing to the Obama Administration. Apparently, it’s okay to be embarrassing if you’re a special advisor.

Vetting only those who must be confirmed by the Senate is far too limited a view of the process. Any administration should want to get the people who are the most qualified which extends well past credentials and jobs held in the past to issues of temperament, past performance, and, yes, whether the appointment will be an embarrassment to the President.

6 comments… add one
  • Someone in the administration HAD to know Jones had avowed Marxism/Leninism. It was simply too easy to find out via Google.

    You have it exactly right, this was bound to embarrass the President. It really looks like someone didn’t care.

  • This is one more step on the road to decent people not wanting to be in public service, for fear that some slip of the tongue or old blog post will come out and bury them in a hail of shit.

    Soon, the only people left in government will be those too timid to speak their minds and those who are utterly without shame.

  • I question your use of the word ‘decent’ when it pertains to a racist, anti-semite, cop killer advocate and self-confessed communist like Van Jones, Alex.

    Our standards are perhaps different.

    This was hardly a ‘slip of the tongue’ but a consistent stance throughout his entire career. And among Obama’s associates, he’s hardly alone, just a bit more blatant than some of the others.

    Also, these ‘special advisers’ are paid out of the public purse and are privy to highly classified information simply because they work in the White House at a high level. As such, a president should pick them with the criteria and oversight other public figures receive.

    The Van Jones affair leaves us with the following conclusion; either Obama knew all about Jones and figured he could hide it from the American people, or he knew about it but figured it didn’t matter, or he’s a novice with dangerously flawed judgment incapable of finding out some very basic information about a somebody he intended appoint to a high level White House position.

    Ah, that word judgment…remember how, during the campaign, certain people papered over Obama’s radical associations and paper thin resume with talk about his superb judgment?

    As Obama’s long time spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright would say, some chickens are coming home to roost.

  • Rob,

    “racist, anti-semite, […] and self-confessed communist”

    I have seen these things asserted, but never seen a lick of evidence to support them apart from some VERY out-of-context quotes. Particularly the last, in which confessed sympathy for those who are communists somehow morphs into admitting to being a communist…

    “cop-killer advocate”

    While I am personally of the opinion that Mumia abu-Jamal is guilty of the crime of which he is accused, I am not so certain that I believe that a fellow citizen holding a different opinion should be ostracized from participation in public life.

  • There are policy jobs and then there are partisan jobs where you can be an attack dog/lightning rod and it’s ok – WH political director, communications director, DNC/RNC Chairman and so on. Being a “czar”, as meaningless as that position really is, does not fit an attack dog. It’s a policy job.

    Van Jones was a poor pick for a position where any substantive initiatives requiring legislation would need some support of moderate Republicans or at least avoid vehement GOP hostility. Appoint a guy who says objectively asinine things and crows about how rotten I am, expect no favors from me. In fact, expect me to stick a spoke in your wheel as far as your appointee-clown is concerned.

    Rule # 1 for WH Appointees: Do nothing, say nothing to embarrass the POTUS

    Rule # 2 for WH Appointees: Rule # 1 is retroactive.

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