Published September 07, 2009
The resignation of White House green jobs adviser Van Jones could ultimately embolden conservatives who are critical of the Obama administration for its reliance on "czars" -- the nickname for special advisers who do not need congressional approval.
Jones resigned late Saturday following mounting criticism over his past statements and associations. The tipping point came when it was discovered that he signed a petition in 2004 supporting the "9/11 truther" movement, which believes the Bush administration may have been complicit in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
But even before his resignation, critics said the controversy surrounding Jones was indicative of the fundamental problem with the administration's reliance on such advisers.
Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., the first lawmaker to call for Jones' resignation, said Friday that in light of the controversy Obama should suspend the appointment of additional "czars" until Congress has a chance to examine the background and responsibilities of such individuals, as well as determine the constitutionality of such appointments.
Now that Jones is out of the way, Republicans are turning their fire on czars in general.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, called the czars "an affront to the Constitution" since they are not approved by Congress.
"I don't think (Jones is) the issue. I think the czars are the issue," Alexander, R-Tenn., said on "FOX News Sunday." "We have about two dozen so-called czars -- the pay czar, the car czar, all these czars in the White House."
Republican strategist Ed Rollins said the administration needs to focus on bringing people on board who are competent and not controversial.
"(Jones) got out of there, but the more fundamental thing is there are 31 czars in that White House," he said.
Democratic strategist Joe Trippi suggested this is only the beginning for administration critics.
"They're going to keep gunning. I mean, look, this administration has the potential to be FDR or Jimmy Carter, and I think the Republicans are going to do everything they can to make him Jimmy Carter, to create a failed presidency," he said.
White House aides suggested Sunday that the administration is operating under the assumption that Jones' resignation will put to rest an unhelpful controversy, at a time when the president needs as much support as he can muster to pass health care reform.
Adviser David Axelrod commended Jones for the decision to step down, saying he showed his "commitment" to his cause by removing himself "as an issue."
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Jones "understood that he was going to get in the way of the president and ultimately this country moving forward" on clean energy.
"What Van Jones decided was that the agenda of this president was bigger than any one individual," Gibbs said on ABC's "This Week."
But Jones did not go quietly. He issued a defiant statement announcing his departure, accusing critics of mounting a "vicious smear campaign" against him, even as the White House kept its commentary to a minimum.
"They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide," Jones said.
Trippi and Rollins spoke on CNN's "State of the Union." Axelrod spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press."