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Alan M. Webber

Alan M. Webber

Alan Webber, a founding editor of Fast Company magazine, is an award-winning editor, author, and columnist. His most recent book is Rules of Thumb: 52 Truths for Winning at Business Without Losing Yourself.

Taking One for the Team

As Mr. Dooley himself once eloquently put it, "Politics ain't beanbag." No, indeed, it is a contact sport and as is often the case with contact sports, there will be injuries, bad calls, flagrant fouls, and even out-of-bounds hits. A professional takes it in stride, accepts the injustices and indignities as part of the game, and moves on. Remembering, of course, not to forget or forgive.

That's one rule of politics.

Another rule is that in any political office or political campaign, there is only one person who is not expendable, and that is the elected official or candidate. Everyone else, from campaign adviser on down, is there to serve at the pleasure of the leader. When and if someone becomes a liability or a distraction, it is a time-honored tradition in politics for that person to fall on his or her sword. Or to go back to the sports metaphor, to take one for the team.

Finally, the presumption in politics is that the office holder and the team exist for the purpose of advancing an agenda. Anyone or anything that interferes with that larger goal is unwelcome turbulence, a drag on the line, and therefore needs to be somehow put aside.

Does Van Jones have a "radical past" as the question asserts? The answer is, it may not even matter. He was in the sights of conservative talk show hosts and the hounding wasn't going to stop until they could claim a coup, whether for something he actually said or did in his past, or as retribution for the loss of sponsors for the Fox TV program. Both sides understand the basic rule is, "Don't get mad, get even."

What message does it send to other administration officials? Something they already know: They serve at the pleasure of the president; he is their boss and client; their job is to advance his agenda, to promote his policies, and, in some cases, to protect him from getting mud splattered on him when it hits them.

It isn't about leadership; it's about Mr. Dooley's old-school political rules.

By Alan M. Webber

 |  September 9, 2009; 5:20 AM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Support of this man's racist views just encourages continued black on white racism. "

Well, if you got the president and his cronies in a room where they couldn't be quoted, they'd let you know that only white people can be racists, black people cannot.

That pretty much sums it all up.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | September 9, 2009 6:38 PM
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Jones took one for the team and like poster DNJAKE said in his/her comments, in that position, one is held responsible/judged for the things they say, in the past and present. MANY Americans are suspicious of the Bush/Cheney administration ignoring warnings of imminent attacks thus allowing the September 11, 2001, attacks to occur. Sounds dispicable, unbelieveable and conspiritous, but . . .

Posted by: ajackson3 | September 9, 2009 4:10 PM
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I'm in the "take one for the team" camp. Jones remains a member of the team in good standing, as no one in the White House has even mildly criticized him or rejected his views. It's just that having a self-described Communist who signed a Truther petition and wants to free cop-killer Mumia is a bridge too far to successfully defend.

Van Jones was picked because Obama and Valerie Jarrett admire his far-left record and views -- but they know they can't go to the mat for him because they'd lose.

Posted by: emmet1 | September 9, 2009 4:08 PM
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The reality is the same in any kind of group. If you want to be in a responsible visible position, you have to expect to be judged by your comments. Anyone who suggests that 9/11 was caused intentionally by the Republicans is not meeting the minimum standard of responsibility required of anyone who occupies a substantial position in any President's administration.

Posted by: dnjake | September 9, 2009 3:19 PM
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If the WH had a decent vetting process in place, this wouldn't be an issue.

Posted by: jahs4fun | September 9, 2009 2:51 PM
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Support of this man's racist views just encourages continued black on white racism.

Posted by: fury60 | September 9, 2009 10:40 AM
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Alan Webber is right on target with his comments.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | September 9, 2009 10:02 AM
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It may be history but it stinks. Loyalty is a two way street. White House staffers need a President who protects them. Not much of a job, otherwise.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | September 9, 2009 5:42 AM
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