Van Jones and the W.H. Casualty List

Jones, blaming resignation on "lies and distortions," did not go quietly

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Jones released a statement accusing his critics of using "lies and distortions" about him to divert attention from the White House's agenda.

    When President Obama's green jobs adviser, Van Jones, submitted his resignation this weekend, he became the first casualty of the Obama administration not to go quietly.

    Where other departing officials have given explanations about process or used predictable lines about spending more time with their families, Jones released a statement accusing his critics of using "lies and distortions" about him to divert attention from the White House's agenda.

    "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Jones said.

    Also breaking with this White House's custom, the administration offered no reason for Jones's resignation. There was no smoke screen of administrative excuses, just a thank-you statement from Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley – and Jones's own acknowledgment that he had become a liability after his name was found attached to petitions questioning the U.S. government's role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    Here's a look back at other officials who have lost their jobs in this administration and how they handled things differently from Jones.

    Louis Caldera

    It was just hours after Air Force One's April 27 flyover of lower Manhattan that White House Military Office Director Louis Caldera apologized for the first time.

    "Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," Caldera, a former Army secretary, said in a statement on the now-infamous photo op. "It's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption. I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."

    Rather than canning Caldera immediately, the White House initiated a review of the flyover incident, spearheaded by Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina. Almost two weeks later, late on a Friday afternoon, the White House released Messina's report, along with a letter from Caldera explaining that the blowup had "made it impossible for me to effectively lead the White House Military Office."

    "It has become a distraction to the important work you are doing as President," Caldera wrote in a message addressed to Obama. "After much reflection, I believe it is incumbent on me to tender my resignation and step down as Director of the White House Military Office."

    Ellen Moran 

    When White House Communications Director Ellen Moran left the West Wing in late April, it wasn't presented as a firing. But however her departure unfolded, one thing was clear: Moving from the West Wing to the Department of Commerce wasn't a promotion.

    On April 22, when she announced she was taking a job as chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Moran told POLITICO: "This is a perfect fit for me professionally and personally...When I had the opportunity, I jumped at it."

    Moran was one of the few high-profile women on Obama's political staff and her departure revived questions about the insularity of a White House team forged in the 2008 presidential campaign. Beyond thanking her for her "leadership" and praising her "management and strategic skills," however, Obama and his aides had little to say about the resignation of the former EMILY's List director.

    "She had the opportunity to go work as the chief of staff for the...new Commerce Secretary. It's a position that greatly interests her and it gives her a chance to spend more time with her husband and her children," Gibbs told reporters in a gaggle on Air Force One.

    "The team is incredibly grateful and thankful for the work that she's put in over the first part of this administration," he added later. It was the Obama administration's 92nd day in office.

     

    Gen. David McKiernan

    Obama didn't choose Gen. David McKiernan to run the war in Afghanistan. And going by the White House's release announcing his removal from his post, you might not have known Obama was responsible for his departure, either.

    When the president decided to pull his Afghan commander from the field and replace him with counterinsurgency expert Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the White House announced the move in a carefully worded statement distributing responsibility for McKiernan's dismissal across top national security brass.

    "The President agreed with the recommendation of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the implementation of a new strategy in Afghanistan called for new military leadership," Gibbs said in a statement on May 11. "The President was grateful for and impressed by the leadership that General McKiernan demonstrated in calling for additional resources for the fight in Afghanistan. This change of direction in Afghanistan in no way diminishes the President’s deep respect for Gen. McKiernan and his decades of public service."

    McKiernan didn't sound so convinced of this when he spoke at his retirement ceremony a little over a month later.

    "If you had asked me 30 days ago if I would be here today at my retirement ceremony, I probably would have said no, maybe in a bit stronger terms," McKiernan said, according to CNN. "I was dismayed, disappointed and more than a little embarrassed."

    Steve Rattner

    Only one Obama administration casualty, to date, has been able to take the most desirable path out of government: Declaring victory and going home.

    When the Treasury Department announced on July 13 that Steve Rattner, the private equity executive who headed the president's Auto Task Force, would return to the private sector, Secretary Tim Geithner said Rattner's work in Washington was essentially done.

    "With GM's restructuring complete, Steven Rattner, whose leadership and vision were invaluable to the Auto Task Force's efforts, has decided to transition back to private life and his family in New York City," Geithner said in a statement. "We are extremely grateful to Steve for his efforts in helping to strengthen GM and Chrysler, recapitalize GMAC, and support the American auto industry. I hope that he takes another opportunity to bring his unique skills to government service in the future."

    But Rattner's departure wasn't the end of the Auto Task Force. Indeed, even as Geithner announced Rattner's job as done, he announced that Ron Bloom, a former banker and union official serving as an adviser to Treasury, would take over Rattner's responsibilities.

    For months, Rattner's tenure had been plagued by stories of a New York-based investigation into Rattner's firm, Quadrangle Group, and allegations that it had illegally obtained a management role in New York's public pension fund.

    Like Caldera, McKiernan and Jones – but not Moran – Rattner announced no future plans at the time of his resignation.