Once again, CNN hosted former Obama "green jobs" czar Van Jones, giving him plenty of air-time to tout his new book and defend himself against accusations from conservatives. Unsurprisingly, anchor Soledad O'Brien tossed mostly softballs at Jones on Wednesday's Starting Point.
However, even though O'Brien passsed on grilling the former Obama advisor, conservative guest Will Cain was up to the task. "You said you flirted with socialism, communism, various aspects," Cain told Jones, and asked "What I'm curious about is when you were inside, you were part of this administration. How much does your ideology reflect the ideology of the administration?"
That question prompted a defensive response from Jones, who accused people like Cain of "smearing me and lying about what my ideas are." Jones, Obama's "green jobs" special advisor, resigned from the administration in 2009 after reports surfaced over his controversial past. He had previously signed a petition that charged the Bush administration may have allowed 9/11 to happen, called Republicans "a**holes," and described himself as a communist, among other things.
On Starting Point, Jones admitted to his radical past but put it behind him. "Look, I was on the left side of Pluto when I was in my 20s," he told the panel.
O'Brien also failed to ask Jones about the failure of "green energy" companies, like Solyndra, that received Stimulus money from the Obama administration. Jones himself told her that his philosophy of "creating green jobs, putting people to work in green industries is exactly what the President ran on." So how did O'Brien not then ask him about the failure of multiple "green energy" companies that were subsidized by Obama?
The liberal Jones has been a welcome guest on CNN before, to talk about Occupy Wall Street. CNN host Suzanne Malveaux even flattered him that he would make a "good spokesperson" for the movement.
A transcript of the segments, which aired on April 4 on Starting Point beginning at 7:53 a.m. EDT, is as follows:
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: We want to talk about Van's book because not only is he a panelist this morning. He's also written a new book. It's called "Rebuild the Dream." And it's all about being inside the Obama White House. You write about the hope bubble being burst. You say this, "Where did the forces that elected Obama go wrong? The movement didn't crash primarily because of the losers of 2008 created a fear machine. It crashed because the winners mishandled and inadvertently dismantled the hope machine." That's an interesting perspective. You say this is three books in one. What do you mean?
O'BRIEN: You say this, "We overestimated our achievement in 2008, we underestimated our opponents. We did not lose because the backlashers got so loud. We lost because the rest of us got so quiet. Too many of us treated Obama's inauguration as some kind of finish line and we should have seen it as the starting line. Too many of us sat down at the very moment when we should have stood up." So what was the implication of that do you think?
VAN JONES, co-founder, Rebuild the Dream: Sure, well, the problem was I think that – progressives, Democrats and the independents that elected Obama, we thought, look, you got Obama in the White House. You got 60 votes in the Senate –
O'BRIEN: Done and done.
JONES: – you got Pelosi –
O'BRIEN: – for the Democrats –
JONES: We're done. So we thought that was enough to govern. It turns out that was only one third. You also have to have a disciplined media strategy, Fox was able to demonstrate that, and you have to have a grassroots movement, people. The Tea Party demonstrated that. LBJ did not lead the Civil Rights Movement. Obama is the head of state. He's not supposed to also be a social movement leader, but the grassroots didn't understand that. We expected him to do for us what we have to do for ourselves.
WILL CAIN, CNN contributor: Interesting that your disappointment in the accomplishments of this administration is largely focused on those outside who opposed it. Van, your ideology as opposed to your activism – we're talking about your ideology here – it's been very open. You said you flirted with socialism, communism, various aspects. What I'm curious about is when you were inside, you were part of this administration. How much does your ideology reflect the ideology of the administration?
JONES: Well, first of all, it's funny. The reason I wrote the book is because, you know, people like this had such a great job of smearing me and lying about what my ideas are.
O'BRIEN: Do we need to separate the two of you?
CAIN: No, I'm not. If I'm wrong, please tell me I'm wrong. But I thought you were open about some of these things.
JONES: Let me finish. I figured you'd jump in here and try to make some points for yourself. But here's the deal, the reality is this. I, just like a lot of people when I was younger I experiment – some people experimented with drugs and alcohol. I experimented with ideas, world views, philosophies. When I was younger, I decided that I was going to do everything I could to change the system, to make sure that poor people didn't mistreated. I grew up, I learned, I changed.
And just like Shirley Sherrod who could tell her story about how she used to be, you know, suspicious of white people and then she learned, I was going around telling my story, that the way you're going to deal with poverty is with business solutions. The way you're going to deal with poverty is with free enterprise. The way you're going to deal with poverty is putting people to work.
O'BRIEN: But you didn't answer Will's question, which is how much of what your philosophy is reflects what was going on in the administration.
JONES: My philosophy of using business-based solutions to fight both poverty and pollution, putting – creating green jobs, putting people to work in green industries is exactly what the President ran on. My mature views are the views of the administration. And so the reason I wrote the book, we are now living in a situation where the information system is very sophisticated, but the wisdom system is not.
O'BRIEN: And we're back with our conversation. We were talking earlier about politics and also Van's book, which is called "Rebuild the Dream." And the two of you were getting into it a little bit. You took great umbrage when you mentioned socialism and communism and then you – and asked sort of how that would frame – I think I'm re-framing this correctly – what the –
CAIN: I reflected on the President's ideology. Van took big issue with that. And I want him to tell me where have I got it wrong?
O'BRIEN: What's wrong with that question?
JONES: Oh, well, basically, I think what I wanted to be able to clarify with you, and we were talking off camera –
O'BRIEN: You can hit him if you want to.
O'BRIEN: I'm kidding.
JONES: Look, all – all these are fair questions. Look, I was on the left side of Pluto when I was in my 20s. Everybody knows that. I was talk – I talked about that on the record. But what I learned is as I was you know going through the rest of my life, those ideas were not working. We – I was going to more funerals than graduations for kids in Oakland. And I said we've got to do something to get jobs in this community.
And so we – the solar industry was taking off, so we said why don't we get these young kids jobs putting up solar panels? And it opened up a whole new way of my understanding about how it is you could use enterprise – green businesses to fight both pollution and poverty.
Wrote – wrote a book about it. Those were the ideas that I think captured the attention of a lot of people in the country. I got a chance to go to the White House, I was there for six months working on those ideas. I think those are good ideas, I think they're good ideas because they're good – if you believe in markets, they're great because they're free-market based ideas. And the book talks about that.
CAIN: So what I'm appreciating – what I appreciated about Van and it didn't come off I guess personally between us, is the honesty in his own ideology. And he's telling us now where he was versus where he is today.
CAIN: And what I'm curious about is – even – but even today you embrace some concepts like the Occupy protest. And – and what I'm curious about is how much do the Occupy protests in this – wherever we put it on the left end of the spectrum, reflect on the President? And you've had personal interactions and worked with the President, there's the source of my question.
JONES: Sure I mean, I think the President –
O'BRIEN: And did he want to you resign? When you resigned from your position was there pressure?