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Swift Boat 2.0: Conservative groups behind false attacks on the President’s national security record

When President Obama took office, the U.S. was engaged in two wars and and al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden was still at large. As commander-in-chief, President Obama refocused our priorities on the most significant security threats to the country and on fulfilling our promises to our servicemembers. Under the President, we have eliminated more than two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s core leadership—including bin Laden.

But a new cadre of conservative groups are trying to “Swift Boat” the President by manufacturing false attacks about his national security record. A collection of super PACs and organizations are deploying the same “discredited” and “hardball smear tactics” against President Obama that were used to attack Sen. John Kerry’s military service in 2004. Each group follows the same pattern, identifying themselves as separate, nonpartisan former U.S. military and intelligence operatives who have a “civic duty” to attack the President. But who exactly is behind these attacks?

A closer look at each group reveals an interconnected web of Republican operatives who are launching “Swift Boat”-style smear tactics against President Obama’s national security record.

Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund

The partisan agenda:

  • Launch false attacks on the President over the operation that killed Osama bin Laden

  • Falsely claim President Obama is deliberately leaking national security information

The operatives:

  • OPSEC president Scott Taylor is a failed Republican candidate who lost his campaigns for public office in 2008 and 2010.

  • Spokesman Chad Kolton worked as a spokesman for the Bush administration, the Republican National Committee, and House Speaker John Boehner. Another spokesman Fred Rustmann appeared on Fox News during the Bush administration to—ironically—downplay the significance of leaks about CIA operative Valerie Plame’s undercover status, claiming it wasn’t “a big deal.” This serious breach of national security later led to four felony convictions for Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

  • OPSEC member Bill Cowan actually praised President Obama for making “the tough decision” to “go after bin Laden instead of taking the easy way out” before he joined a group attacking the President for that operation.

Special Operations Speaks

The partisan agenda:

  • Falsely claim President Obama is deliberately leaking national security information

The operatives:

  • Founder Larry Bailey created the Vietnam Veterans for Truth in 2004, an organization that helped generate the Swift Boat attacks on Sen. John Kerry in 2004. In 2006, he launched the Vets for the Truth PAC using the same tactics to target Democratic Rep. John Murtha.

Veterans for a Strong America

The partisan agenda:

  • Launch false attacks on the President over the operation that killed Osama bin Laden

The operatives:

  • Executive Director Joe Arends worked on both the Bush and McCain presidential campaigns and ran an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican candidate for office in Iowa. He had previously served as Executive Director of Vets for Freedom, an attack group bankrolled by former Bush Administration officials that was closely tied to members of John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Special Operations for America

The partisan agenda:

  • Launch false attacks on the President over the operation that killed Osama bin Laden

The operatives:

  • Montana’s conservative state senator Ryan Zinke founded the Super PAC, which has stated it is dedicated to “advocating for the election of Mitt Romney and like-minded candidates,” and has partnered with Veterans for a Strong America and its leader Joel Arends. Advisory board member Paul Vallely is also a member of Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund.

It is not surprising that the attacks these groups are launching lack any credibility. The President is committed to protecting our troops and our country’s security. The only way to mislead Americans about his record on national security is to resort to dishonest and overtly political smear campaigns that do a disservice to Americans who deserve to know the facts about the President’s record. As Arends said himself, “Yes, it’s the swift boating of the president.”