Swiftboaters, The Next Generation


An outfit called Vets For a Strong America unveiled this video last week, attacking President Obama for his comments on killing Osama bin Laden, and it’s done quite well. But as attacks go, I’m not sure if this one’s on the right track.

The point is pretty straightforward: the video, professionally made with high production values, wants the viewer to think Obama wants sole credit for the mission that killed the al Qaeda leader last year. The claim is demonstrably untrue, but the right doesn’t much care about such niceties.

Vets For a Strong America’s Joel Arends, the founder and sole staffer at the “group,” freely admits, “Yes, it’s the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what’s perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness.”

I see. So, Obama’s “greatest weakness” was ordering the strike that killed bin Laden, keeping a campaign promise Mitt Romney criticized, and following through on a commitment George W. Bush chose to disregard.


Dave Weigel’s not buying it: “[T]his is cheesy. The aesthetics evoke the ‘Army of One’ ads that play in front of movie trailers. The Swift Vets ads worked for reasons that can’t be recreated in the OBL capture story.”

Quite right. The Swiftboat claims came from individual men who said, on camera, that John Kerry was lying about military heroism. Kerry was telling the truth and his accusers were lying, but again, in Republican politics that just doesn’t matter. The smear campaign offered “proof” that the Democratic war hero was not to be trusted.

Vets For a Strong America’s lie is weaker, less compelling, and based on a premise that’s simply less important.

Weigel added, “[T]he commander-in-chief isn’t stealing valor when he talks about a mission he ordered. That’s what ‘commander-in-chief’ means. The average American who fist-pumped at the OBL news had much less to do with the operation than Obama. I’d doubt he/she feels guilty and wants to take back the ‘USA!’ or the ‘wooooo!’ into the TV camera.”

Or Jed Lewison put it, “[T]he best case scenario with the ad is that people who see it are convinced that Obama is a dick … but even if they are convinced he’s a dick, he’d still be the dick who killed bin Laden. And the last thing you want to do [if you’re a Republican] is talk about how President Obama killed bin Laden.”

Regardless, Joel Arends’ one-person operation – the funding of which remains a mystery – isn’t done. Judd Legum and Adam Peck noted that Vets For a Strong America is trying to recruit Navy SEALS to condemn the president before the election.