President Obama, meet this year’s Swift Boat campaign.
An anti-Obama group supposedly consisting of “non-partisan” former Intelligence and Special Forces operatives for the U.S. military released a 22 minute film today that, according to Reuters “scolds Obama for taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden” and supposedly leaking classified information to the media.
The parallels between this group and the Swift Boat campaign that attacked John Kerry in 2004 are striking. This group, using the hacking lexicon popular these days, calls itself OPSEC, short for Operational Security. Like the Swift Boat campaign, this group is comprised of supposedly non-political, non-partisan military servicemen—ostensibly unassailable men of honor—who use that status to discredit the candidate’s most celebrated acts of character. For John Kerry, it was the purple hearts he received for acts of valor in Vietnam, and for Obama, it’s the daring and leadership he showed in pursuing and killing America’s most notorious enemy, Osama bin Laden.
OPSEC positions itself as good samaritans who just want to “save American lives.” Criticizing the supposed leaks of classified information to the media, Ben Smith, identified as a Navy SEAL in the film, says, “As a citizen, it is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy. It will get Americans killed.”
But scratch a millimeter below the surface, and this group smacks of conservative establishment backing.
According to Reuters, “the president of Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc, Scott Taylor, is a former Navy SEAL who in 2010 ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for a congressional seat in Virginia.” The group’s spokesman Chad Kolton served in the George W. Bush administration as spokesman for the office of Director of National Intelligence. And the group has already managed to raise $1 million and hopes to raise far more after the release of their first attack film today. Not bad for a few ex-military guys, right? Handily, thanks to their filing status under section 501(c)4 as a social welfare group, all their donations are allowed to remain secret, so we’ll never know who’s actually funding the group.
Taylor says, “You’ll see throughout the film that concern about protecting the lives of intelligence and Special Forces officers takes precedence over partisanship.” But there are lines in the film that sound so much like campaign-trail attacks it’s impossible to ignore. For instance, the line “Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden, America did. The work that the American military has done killed Osama bin Laden. You did not,” sounds like a direct rebuttal to Obama’s “you didn’t build that” line, which the GOP effectively jumped on.
If it seems unlikely that a group of ex-military guys including one failed politician would have the skills to raise over a million dollars and execute a Karl Rove-style attack campaign, ask yourself: Who more capable of this kind of thing would have a motive to discredit the president’s most celebrated achievement? The Koch Brothers? Sheldon Adelseon? Romney campaign insiders? Thanks to our regulatory rules we’ll never know—but what’s the difference? Does it really matter who? The monied interests of both partisan sides are so inextricably linked to our political parties at this point as to be indistinguishable from the parties themselves.
At any rate, just as the Swift Boat vets who actually served on John Kerry’s boat and were actually present on the occasions that he won his purple hearts called the 2004 Swift Boat attacks “a pack of lies” and “totally false,” the OPSEC attempt to discredit Obama breaks with the man in charge of the actual military raid on bin Laden. The Obama campaign highlighted Admiral Bill McRaven’s CNN interview last month, where he said: “At the end of the day, make no mistake about it, it was the president of the United States that shouldered the burden for this operation, that made the hard decisions, that was instrumental in the planning process, because I pitched every plan to him.”
The Obama administration’s assessment of OPSEC? “No one in this group is in a position to speak with any authority on these issues and on what impact these leaks might have, and it’s clear they’ve resorted to making things up for purely political reasons.” Watch the video, with the Rove-esque title “Dishonorable Disclosures” (see how they got the word dishonor in there right up front?), in full below and let us know what you think.