Barack Obama is fighting a lot of political wars these days. The most important, of course, is the war over the war in Afghanistan. Then there’s the war over health care. And spending. And the environment. And financial regulation. And on and on.
They’re all serious and time consuming. But the war that has become unexpectedly intense in recent days isn’t about any particular policy. It’s the war over personnel — the president’s choices to fill important but not necessarily high-profile jobs in his administration.
Some of Obama’s choices have been people with radical pasts — or radical presents. Others are so overtly political that they can’t see any line between serving Obama and serving the public. The presence of each has made it increasingly difficult for their boss, the president, to present himself as a centrist.
First was Van Jones, the Obama “green jobs” czar who once signed a petition supporting the “9/11 truther” movement; who was a self-professed communist during much of the 1990s; who supported the cop-killer Mumia abu-Jamal; and who accused “white polluters” of “steering poison into the people of color communities.” Under fire for his extremist views, Jones disappeared in an unusual middle-of-the night resignation on Sept. 5.
Then there was Yosi Sergant, who, as communications director for the National Endowment for the Arts, crossed an entire football field of ethical lines by using his office, which is intended to promote the arts in America, to instead enlist artists to work on behalf of specific Obama initiatives. He resigned Sept. 24.
By: Byron York
Now comes Kevin Jennings, the gay activist who heads the Education Department’s Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools. Jennings founded a group called the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network and has devoted his career to introducing the topic of homosexuality into every American classroom, including elementary schools. Some of his credentials include writing the foreword to a book called Queering Elementary Education, which included chapters like “Why Discuss Sexuality in Elementary School?” and “Locating a Place for Gay and Lesbian Themes in Elementary Reading, Writing, and Talking.” Jennings worked hard to bring discussions of overtly homosexual topics — and in some cases, sexual practices — into classrooms.
As a young teacher, nearly two decades ago, Jennings was approached by a 15-year old boy (some defenders now say the boy was 16) who said he had had an encounter with an older man. Instead of pursuing the matter with the authorities, Jennings, by his own account, offered some simple advice: “I hope you used a condom.”
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