Press cites now-former green jobs advisor's past support of new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal as grounds for resignation...
By Ernest A. Canning on 9/8/2009, 10:25am PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

Separate articles appeared in Monday's New York Times and in the Washington Post. Both suggest that the resignation submitted by Van Jones, a special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, were the result of inadequate White House "vetting." Neither newspaper examined the question as to whether the true problem was the inability to withstand a smear campaign led by extreme right-wing whack jobs like Glenn Beck; an inability reflected by the Times' description of a "terse" acceptance of the resignation, with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs taking pains to stress that President Barack Obama "did not endorse" Jones' views.

The three Jones sins were his having uttered an expletive in referring to Republicans, his having "signed a petition in 2004 questioning whether the Bush administration had allowed the terrorist attacks of September 2001 to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East," and his support for Mumia Abu-Jamal ("Mumia")...

I won't dwell on the first except to state that although the use of vulgarity in political discourse is inappropriate, a single utterance, followed by an apology, in no way compels a resignation. The right-wing echo chamber conveniently forgets that their hero, former Vice President Richard B. Cheney, told a U.S. Senator "Go fuck yourself" on the floor of the U.S. Senate. And even George W. Bush famously pointed a NY Times reporter out to his then-running mate Dick Cheney, as a "major-league asshole".

Truth be told, you could probably count on one hand the number of Democrats and Independents who have not, at some point, at least thought of Cheney as a lying S.O.B., even if they have refrained from saying it.

While I, for one, do not believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that the Bush regime intentionally permitted 9/11 to occur, it is not all that unreasonable to raise the question, as millions of Americans have, so as to warrant further investigation to either substantiate or refute the "official theory" of that event.

Consider the two things that are clear: (a) in the face of dire warnings, at a minimum, the Bush regime appears to have been asleep at the switch, and (b) the Bush regime seized on the event to target Iraq, with Bush not only refusing to accept Richard Clarke's 9/12/01 assessment that there was no link between Saddam and 9/11, but reportedly instructing Clarke to find one --- at least according to what Clarke wrote in Against All Enemies: Inside the War on Terror.

However, in the eyes of the corporate media, even a call to test the veracity of the disparate official theories on 9/11 and the deeply flawed 9/11 Commission Report are considered evidence that one is not fit to hold high office. As I noted in "On Conspiracy Theories," the corporate media will label anyone who challenges official reality a "conspiracy theorist" even if they merely "seek an investigation to test whether there is empirical data that supports the official reality." Indeed, as used by the corporate owned media, anyone labeled a "conspiracy theorist" is by definition "mentally deranged."

But the corporate media did not stop there. It suggested that support for a death-row inmate who may have been wrongfully convicted serves to disqualify someone from holding high office.

While it often comes as a shock to some of my hard-right friends, not everyone convicted of a crime is actually guilty. As Ezekiel Edwards, staff attorney at the Innocence Project, explained during a 10/24/08 appearance on Democracy Now, since "the Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Newfeld, 223 people have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing."

Edwards, who specializes in the inadequacies of eye witness identification, spoke on the eve of a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court by death row inmate Troy Anthony Davis.

The appeal was a smashing success. Six members of the Court, persuaded not only by the absence of physical evidence linking Davis to the crime but by the fact that seven of nine eye witnesses not only recanted but identified one of the two remaining witnesses as the party who committed the crime, ruled [PDF] that Davis was entitled to a new trial in which he would have the burden of proving his innocence. Two of the Court's Federalist Society-connected Justices, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented. They made the astounding claim that the U.S. Constitution does not preclude executing an innocent man.

Among the many prominent figures to speak out in support of Davis were former President Jimmy Carter, Pope Benedict XVI, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, now an independent, and former FBI Director and judge William S. Sessions.

Like Davis, a broad range of individuals have stepped forward to question Mumia's conviction. This has included a large number of individuals and unions under the aegis of the Partisan Defense Fund, former six-term Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, educators, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which passed a unanimous resolution [PDF] urging that Mumia be granted a new trial.

In an interview and at greater length in his book, The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, reporter J. Patrick O’Connor presents a persuasive argument that Mumia did not kill Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner; that Faulkner was murdered by Kenneth Freeman, a business partner of Mumia’s brother.

The question of guilt or innocent in Mumia's case has been complicated by issues of racial bias in jury selection and the disparate application of court precedents.

As explained by Mumia's lead appellate counsel, Robert Bryan, following an appellate decision which upheld the conviction but granted a new penalty trial to determine whether Mumia should receive a death sentence or life in prison:

The District Attorney’s Philadelphia...during...the...late ’70s and mid- to late ’80s, engaged in a pattern --- this is judicially recognized --- of removing people from sitting on juries because of race....

[In] Snyder v. Louisiana, decided last week...the US Supreme Court, in a seven-to-two decision, reaffirmed that the removal of even one person from sitting on a jury because of his or her race is constitutionally...unacceptable. And that is exactly what happened in this case, but not just one. The prosecution in this case engaged in a pattern of...nearly 70 percent of their strikes, of removing people who could be on the jury, were people who were African American....

Linn Washington, a columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and a journalism professor at Temple University, who has followed the case for 25 years addressed the manner in which "the judiciary has consistently failed to apply its own legal precedents" to Mumia's case.

Washington raised an issue of judicial ethics that may be unique to Pennsylvania:

Five members of the seven-member Supreme Court that upheld Abu-Jamal’s conviction in 1998 received campaign contributions and campaign support from the Fraternal Order of Police, which is a Philadelphia police union, the main group that is pushing for his execution.

Washington noted that during that same year a PA Supreme Court study revealed that four in ten members of the public in that state "felt that campaign contributions had a direct impact on rulings and deliberations of all courts, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court."

So here we have two cases in which African-American men may be victims of wrongful murder convictions. In the case of Troy Anthony Davis, the hard-right has said little. In the other, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the right wing echo chamber, led by Glenn Beck of Fox News, has gone berserk.

It would be one thing if the corporate media argued that Troy Davis presented a stronger case for innocence than Mumia Abu-Jamal. But, alas, there is not one word in either The New York Times or Washington Post articles about guilt or innocence; not one word about issues of bias in jury selection or the potential of judicial impropriety tied to campaign contributions. Instead, the articles assume that merely by supporting Mumia's appeal, Van Jones demonstrated that he is unfit for high office.

Why the disparate treatment by both the right-wing echo chamber and corporate media? The answer lies in politics. Troy Davis is simply a young man wrongfully accused. Mumia, prior to his arrest and conviction, was a former member of the Black Panther Party and an award-winning journalist --- an outspoken journalist not afraid to challenge the local and national power base. Since his conviction, Mumia has remained a prolific writer and commentator, sharply critical of such things as the prison-industrial complex and the politicization of the U.S. Justice Department under George W. Bush and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In the mind of the American hard-right, Mumia's politics warrant his death sentence even if the facts do not. And anyone who supports Mumia's appeal for personal justice must be a radical as well. Thus, we find Beck labeling Jones a "communist-anarchist radical" --- demonstrating that Beck doesn't have a clue about the irreconcilable differences between Communism and anarchism.

When it comes to Van Jones, Beck's animosity may be of a more personal nature. Beck has been smarting from the loss of revenue, as 55 sponsors, including Wal Mart and Sprint, withdrew ads from his program after Beck called President Obama a racist during remarks that typify Beck's knack for Orwellian double-speak:

I’m not saying he [President Obama] doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. He has a --- this guy is, I believe, a racist…

The sponsors of Beck's program withdrew support at the urging of Color of Change, an activist group co-founded by Jones with James Rucker.

In the larger context, the silent acceptance of this type of right-wing smear campaign by the corporate media and the Obama administration has deeply troubling implications. In losing Van Jones, a Yale Law School graduate and author of the New York Times best-selling The Green Collar Economy, the United States has lost an exceptionally well-qualified individual to help lead this nation away from global climate degradation. What possible relevance does Jones' support for Mumia Abu-Jamal have to that position?

As James Rucker observed on Democracy Now (video below):

Beck himself has said, and Fox has made clear, that they will go on such witch hunts if they can keep doing it. And when you...respond to what Beck has done by essentially trying to be silent, it doesn’t work. And when you respond by allowing your folks to leave, it’s basically not only rewarding bad behavior, it also sends a message that, hmmm, maybe something was wrong with Van Jones…

The fact that both The New York Times and Washington Post would raise the question of adequate vetting underscores that Beck's smear campaign led the unthinking stenographers in the corporate press to conclude "maybe something was wrong with Van Jones."

Jones' resignation portends to a 21st Century return to the dark days of the "Red Scare" under the late Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). What's next, loyalty oaths and a return of the infamous House on Un-American Activities Committee?

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UPDATE 09/08/09: James Rucker's observation, offered this morning on Democracy Now that the administration's silence will only serve to embolden the Glenn Beck/Fox witch hunt has proven quite prescient. Tonight, on Countdown, Keith Olbermann revealed that Beck is now seeking to target Cass Sunstein, Mark Lloyd & Carol Browner.


Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).

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