Can the GOP successfully 'swift boat' Barack Obama this fall?

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Since January 20, 2009, the Republican establishment has waged an intellectual civil war against the presidency of Barack Obama, seeking to turn his every strength into weakness, his every success into failure. Using dog whistles and a non-stop propaganda machine, they have sought to reinforce a narrative that this first African-American president doesn’t deserve the respect and authority of the office to which he has ascended.

Now that the 2012 campaign is fully underway, the battle is on. GOP operatives — aided by untamed Super PAC spending — are shamelessly seeking to co-opt one of the most sacred national institutions, the U.S. military, to undermine President Obama’s authority as Commander-in-Chief.

A recent investigative report by Adam Weinstein of Mother Jones magazine uncovered dubious links between the infamous Koch Brothers, Republican strategist Karl Rove and ‘Veterans for a Strong America’ (VSA), a supposedly “grassroots action organization committed to ensuring that America remains a strong nation by advancing liberty, safeguarding freedom and opposing tyranny.” Founded in 2010, VSA claims to be a nonpartisan group, and, by virtue of its name, appears to represent the values and opinions of American veterans.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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A week ago, VSA unleashed one of the most scathing attack ads of the 2012 primary. The highly-produced online advert manipulates partial statements by President Obama in an attempt to suggest he boasted about Osama bin Laden’s killing, and dishonored the military forces who executed the mission.

“Heroes don’t politicize their acts of valor,” the ad states, as Hollywood-like shots of soldiers and aircraft appear on screen. Clips of political pundits like Arianna Huffington, running in the background, call Obama’s mention of bin Laden’s death during a news conference “shameless” and “despicable.” All the quotes are taken out of context in order to fit the Republican narrative from last week’s faux-controversy, that President Obama inappropriately injected politics into the capture and death of bin Laden.

Suffice to say, GOP hypocrisy was on full display as former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney stood in front of a crowded camera press pool in lower Manhattan last week—on the anniversary of bin Laden’s capture — visiting a fire station where first responders to the 9/11 attacks had worked. Both men criticized President Obama for the very thing they themselves engendered.

Mainstream media and comedic pundits like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were quick to point out it was actually George W. Bush, advised by Karl Rove, who valiantly “politicized” the war on terror and 9/11 tragedy; he used both as tools to prove his strength and competency as a powerful and effective military leader.

As expected, Karl Rove publicly praised the VSA ad campaign, retreating to Twitter to say it was “powerful.” The right-wing blogosphere quickly got wind, and the video went viral.

“The swift boating of Obama has begun,” wrote John Hudson of The Atlantic. “One thing that’s clear from this advertisement, if more current and former SEALs decided to come out of the woodwork in opposition to Obama, it could do real damage to him.”

But what is most deceitful about this ad campaign is that there are no actual Navy SEALs speaking on its behalf. Joel Arends, the VSA founder and sole staffer, was forced to admit to Mother Jones, he’s “working on recruiting” disgruntled former commandos.

“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,” Arends proudly boasted.

So the ad is pure fiction, using Navy SEALs, veterans, and currently serving officers as pawns in a political game.

“There is no doubt that Arends, a decorated Iraq War vet…cares deeply about his comrades in arms,” Weinstein wrote. “But there’s little evidence that VSA is more than a dark-money group with connections to the Republican Party, the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity, and Islamophobic activists.”

And herein lies the problem unleashed on America’s political landscape by a conservative-dominated Supreme Court in the Citizens United case: the purchase of elections through adverts that sell lies as fact. It has become a billion dollar industry, filled with smokescreens and mirrors. The truth in politics has always been suspect, but is now all the more difficult to decipher.

So how do we follow the money?

Arends started as a Bush-Cheney field director in 2000. In 2006, he began working for Craig Dewey, a director of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), an advocacy outfit that has funded various Tea Party groups, aided the Wisconsin union fight and advocated on behalf of public school segregation. Unsurprisingly, AFP is a registered non-profit 501©3, chaired by David Koch (of the Koch Brothers). Six degrees of separation is reduced to three. And as an “independent” nonprofit, Arends’ VSA — who produced the viral video and is clearly connected to AFP, Koch, Dewey and Rove — does not need to disclose its donors.

Given the facts, it is imperative that mainstream media perform proper due diligence on fringe groups like VSA, which are not simply attacking President Obama on policy matters, but seeking to achieve something far more sinister: namely, military insurrection.

Despite the GOP Super PAC and Fox News spin, Obama actually won veterans and active duty military under the age of 40 in 2008. Obama arguably has the strongest national security record and absolutely the best record on veterans issues of any president for decades. His record includes many feats, from decimating al-Qaida leaders and bin Laden to ending the war in Iraq, to successfully leading the coalition that ended Gadhafi’s reign, to isolating Iran, and refocusing military attention on Asia and China’s rise. Besides all that, President Obama increased Veterans Affairs funding — by more than any president in history. The Hiring Our Heroes tax credits, and the new GI Bill and fraud protections, were all designed and implemented under his leadership.

Seeking to subvert the president’s foreign policy success record is both incredibly irresponsible and unpatriotic.

Yesterday’s report that the CIA foiled a potential plane bomb threat to a U.S. airline carrier in Yemen reveals the president is busy saving American lives and dealing with increasingly important logistical decisions, as the GOP and their operatives play politics, employing snake oil sales as their preferred means to re-capture the White House.

Follow Edward Wyckoff Williams on Twitter at @WyckoffWilliams