Vexed About Vetting

Van Jones, a top adviser to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has resigned. The story of Jones’ resignation is interesting for at least two reasons. The first is that although Jones’ past statements and associations have been fodder for The Drudge Report and conservative radio talk-shows and websites for days, they have received very little attention from the establishment news media. Indeed, the New York Times’ first mention of the controversy swirling about Jones came when the Times reported on his resignation. You would think the Times, which holds itself out as the newspaper of record, would be embarrassed to have totally failed to report on, much less to uncover itself, any of the incidents and activities that ultimately led to Jones’ resignation.

The second interesting aspect of Jones’s resignation is the apparently dismal failure of the White House vetting process. It is hard to believe that those in the Administration responsible for checking the background of Administration officials would not have uncovered Jones’ involvement with radical groups and his decision to sign on to a “Truther” petition, among other controversial activities. If those activities were, in fact, overlooked during the vetting process, then the Obama Administration should revisit its procedures and fire the individual who dropped the ball. An equally plausible explanation, however, is that Jones’ activities were uncovered, but Administration officials didn’t find them particularly problematic. Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean, for example, expressed regret at Jones’ resignation because he considers Jones to be a “star.” If Obama Administration officials weren’t troubled by Jones’ past actions, then the Administration may have a more significant problem to address — that of being out of touch with how ordinary Americans may react to radical activities.