Falsely fingering Barack Obama as a foreign-born Muslim failed to keep him from being the first African-American elected president four years ago.
But smear campaigns often work well in American politics and the latest attacks on Mr. Obama disparage him a self-glorifying commander-in-chief whose loose-lipped inner circle has endangered the special forces who hunted down and killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
“Mr. President, you did not kill Osama bin Laden, America did,” says Ben Smith, identified as a former special forces warrior in a now-viral video skewering Mr. Obama. “It is my civic duty to tell the president to stop leaking information to the enemy … It will get Americans killed.”
Private briefings for Hollywood bigwigs, publicly disclosing details of the raid before seized intelligence could be analyzed, leaks about about cyberwar attacks on Iran are all part of a deliberate White House effort to cast Mr. Obama as the great warrior even if it means risking the lives of those actually waging the war, according to the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc, the group behind the attacks on Mr. Obama.
The group claims to be non-partisan. It has released a 22-minute video – already watched more than 2.5-million times on YouTube – and a one-minute ‘ad’ for broadcast television is ready to go. It is raising money to broadcast spots in key swing states. The videos feature former CIA and special forces operatives accusing Mr. Obama of putting political self-promotion ahead of national security and – by doing so – endangering serving agents.
Despite its ‘educational’ status and its refusal to disclose major donors, the group has evident links to the Republican Party. President Scott Taylor tried to win the Republication nomination for a Congressional seat in Virginia two years ago and OPSEC’s spokesman Chad Kolton previously worked for the Bush administration.
The group accuses Mr. Obama of “naked grandstanding” immediately after the elite and secretive Seal Team Six killed the al-Qaeda leader and claims those public disclosures ruined what “may have been our sole opportunity to utterly and completely destroy al-Qaeda.” Because of his “selfish grandstanding and political opportunism, our Commander in Chief lost the single opportunity to exploit intelligence that, had secrecy been preserved, might well have crushed al-Qaeda once and for all.”
The group’s website also makes a point of referring to the president by his initials – BHO – a needling reminder that the middle name he rarely mentions is ‘Hussein.’ While Mr. Obama’s political opponents have long hammered away at the national security implications of the president’s public disclosures, they are not alone.
No less than then Mr. Obama’s first Defence Secretary Robert Gates was reportedly furious over the public bragging about the raid, suggesting acidly to the White House National Security Advisor that he try a new communications strategy called “Shut the F–– up.”
Unfazed and in a much-criticized move, the Obama administration is also helping Hollywood put together a movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, arguably the high point of the president’s first term.
The OPSEC campaign harkens back to a series of attacks on then Democrat presidential hopeful Senator John Kerry, whose 2004 run for the White House against incumbent President George W. Bush was savaged by the ‘Swift Boat’ campaign. Sen. Kerry, who perhaps unwisely had saluted and said he was ‘reporting for duty’ when he won the Democrat nomination, was pilloried in a viciously effective series of Swift Boat ads.
They reminded voters that the young Mr. Kerry, then a junior naval officer, had become an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war, had talked glibly of American atrocities, and returned his service medals.
Despite the fact that Lt. Kerry had been wounded in action in small river patrol craft known as Swift Boats while Mr. Bush’s military service had been safely stateside as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard, the Swift Boat campaign left the Democrat challenger looking unpatriotic.
That’s the same basic message being aimed at Mr. Obama whose campaign, unlike Mr. Kerry’s, has been quick to counter attack.
“The Republicans are resorting to ‘Swift Boat’ tactics because when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney has offered nothing but reckless rhetoric,” said Mr. Obama’s spokesman Ben LaBolt.