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Silence of the lambs: Van Jones gets 'Van Dammed' 

Van Jones, who was frequently dubbed a "green-jobs czar" for the Obama administration, got taken down. Why? Because of some petition that he signed in 2004.

Yes, the man who was tasked with making our country more energy-efficient, along with creating green jobs and initiatives, which is something we desperately need, resigned from his post at the Council on Environmental Quality recently due to some foolishness involving his signature on a petition found on 911Truth.org. According to a Sept. 6 CNN article, Jones released this statement: "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me. They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide." By all accounts including some of his detractors, Van Jones was the perfect person for this job because of his long history of fighting for human rights and seeking green alternatives in order to improve vulnerable communities.

Unfortunately, Van Jones' character was assassinated by Glenn Beck, of all people. A man who founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, co-founded Color of Change -- an advocacy group for African-Americans -- and Green For All -- a national NGO dedicated to "building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty" -- was pushed out of his job because of his ties to "questionable" organizations.

As usual, President Obama rolled over instead of supporting a man who is more than qualified for the position.

Whatever happened to the First Amendment, which clearly states that we have the right to free speech and petition? Even if he signed that 911Truth.org petition, isn't that his right? How many people have publicly questioned the government's role in 9/11? Quite a few, but because their signature isn't on a piece of paper or a hard drive, it's OK?

I would love for someone with more time than me to do an exhaustive search on the "organizations" that our members of Congress belong or have belonged to during the course of their lives. I would bet that there would be quite a few "questionable" associations. This was clearly an effort by the Republicans and Dixiecrats ... I mean Democrats, to divert attention away from the health care debacle ... I mean debate.

Sadly, this accomplished man got pulled into the melee. For the Obama administration to pretend that they did not know who Van Jones was before hiring him is ridiculous.

This is yet again another example of the Obama administration's failure to properly vet someone in a high profile position. When will they learn? How many more so-called "questionable" figures are going to appear in his administration? When will he stand up for them instead of rolling over, if indeed he finds them qualified? President Obama may think that he's taking the higher road when he fails to support his nominees, but in fact, he's being bullied and directed by those who don't respect him as a president or a man.

There is no clearer example of that than Rep. Joe Wilson's heckling of the president when he was making his latest speech on health care. This congressman could not make it through one hour of a speech without yelling like a petulant child. Wilson could not stand to see this black man finally make a clear case for universal health care, so he called him a liar instead.

Yes, the man who represents South Carolina, the great state that has the misfortune of electing lying leaders like Gov. Mark Sanford, Lieutenant Gov. Andre Bauer, former Chairwoman of the State Board of Education Kristin Maguire, and let's not forget Strom Thurmond, wants to call the president a liar -- when he has yet to call out his fellow lawmakers on their proven lies. Wilson embarrassed himself and his state because he, admittedly, couldn't stand to look at and listen to our president.

It is that lynch mob mentality that drove Van Jones out of President Obama's administration, even though by all accounts he was doing a fantastic job. It is that mentality that is driving the hostile and combative "debate" on health care. If President Obama and the Democrats don't get a backbone, that same type of fear-based bullying, instead of common sense and rational thinking, will continue to run this country.

Democrats have the White House, Senate and Congress and still can't get anything passed? The problem may not be the Republicans but the Democrats' unwillingness to take a stand and follow it through, whether it is health care reform, education, the economy or even a "controversial" hire like Van Jones, whom no one really cared about until this health care fiasco.

Until we learn to ignore these political tactics, used by both parties, people like Van Jones will continue to be treated as sacrificial lambs, while the country continues to suffer.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is managing editor of TheLoop21.com. She is an assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and writes the blog Tune N (http://nsengaburton.wordpress.com), which examines popular culture through the lens of race, class, gender and sexuality.

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