The Breitbart headline is hyperbolic, accusing President Obama of calling veterans enemies. The truth is somewhat less earthshaking as President Obama's 'Truth Team' is targeting veterans groups that are campaigning against Obama. That activity on their part opens them up for retaliatory attacks from the Obama campaign, and I have no problem with that on either side.
So what is the Big Lie I headlined?
Let's look at the link Breitbart used to back up their claim, which goes to an article from the Obama-Biden Truth Team. The tagline for the site is "When you’re faced with someone who misrepresents the truth, you can find all the facts you need right here—along with ways to share the message with whoever needs to hear it."
They are promising facts to counter anything coming from the right. Let's see how they do.
Swift Boat 2.0: Conservative groups behind false attacks on the President’s national security record
Swift Boat count: 1
False Attack count: 1
Actual content: 0
But it is just a headline.
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.
Did we win the wars? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
Is al-Qaeda less effective? By what measure? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
What are our priorities, and what activities were deprioritized? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
What promises to servicemembers were made and fulfilled? Don't know. Didn't tell us.
Well, maybe the facts will come later in the article.
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?
Swift Boat count: 2
False attack count:5
They are setting the stage here. Without either detailing the charges from these veterans groups, or refuting them, Obama's Truth Team is characterizing the charges both as false and as attacks, rather than accusations. They are also calling the charges discredited and smears without ever demonstrating anything. In short, there are no facts here relating to the charges, only the presumption, presented as fact, that the charges are false and maliciously presented.
The last sentence shifts the focus from the content of the charges to the people presenting them. That is an attack as well as a logical fallacy. They are hoping to discredit the message by smearing the messenger.
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.
Swift Boat count: 3
False attack count:5
The 'Truth Team' is intent on linking these groups with the Swift Boat veterans who so effectively countered Kerry's attempt to portray himself as a military hero. Again, rather than dealing with the specific charges, they want to attack the messengers.
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
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.
Swift Boat count: 3
False attack count:7
Here is where the 'Truth Team' truly earns the quotes I use when naming them.
First, the use of "partisan agenda." Politics is partisan. When Obama attacks Romney, it is based on Party ideology, not personal antipathy. Including the word partisan is an attempt to discredit the group for simply being conservative. Additionally, partisanship does not preclude other motivations, like patriotism, integrity, honor, or truthfulness. Partisan should not be a bad word, regardless of which side uses it.
But what I really want to address is the Plamegate reference because here, the 'Truth Team' issues some very clear distortions. Fred Rustmann was not talking about the political implications of the Plame leak, but the national security implications. Plame had not been in the field, or actively undercover in years. Her employment by the CIA was well known throughout DC, and was a very open secret. In fact, is was such a minor issue that the origin of the leak, Richard Armitage, a member of Colin Powell's staff, never faced charges for the leak, despite his involvement being discovered very early in the investigation. Scooter Libby was convicted of four felonies, not related to the leak itself, which he had no part of, but for perjury because his testimony was inconsistent. The implication of the 'Truth Team' that Cheney was at the heart of the leak, and that the leak did grave damage to US national security is simply false.
Finally, BIll Cowan fully supported taking out Bin Laden. He objected to all the leaked details after the operations, details that will make future operations much more difficult. The 'Truth Team's' characterization of this difference as a contradiction is either deliberately deceptive or remarkably obtuse.
The rest of the article continues in the same vein, answering no charges from the groups, just attacking the members of the group. As a final example, let's look at the last paragraph.
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.”
Following the link to the quote, we see that once again, the 'Truth Team' is distorting the truth. Arends full quote is:"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."
Talk about changing the context.
And that is the Big Lie. Obama's propaganda team has put together no clear refutation of the charges. Instead, they start from a presumption that the charges are false, and attack the people presenting them.
The sad thing is that they will be effective because they are presenting this information to the true believer, not the unconvinced skeptic.