They were the Republicans' best chance at swift-boating President Obama, but they're unraveling at the seams. The four-month assault by former Navy SEALs and Special Forces operatives against President Obama's handling of the Osama bin Laden raid had the potential to discredit the president's signature foreign policy achievement, but the veterans' partisan excesses and absurd public remarks are turning them into a laughingstock within the special forces community.
The attacks on Obama began surfacing in April when Ryan Zinke, a former Navy commander and Republican state senator, aired his grievances to The Daily Mail. "The President and his administration are positioning him as a war president using the SEALs as ammunition," he said. "I would not overly pat myself on the back for making the right call." At the time, BuzzFeed's Michael Hastings began hearing similar grumblings from other SEALs and identified the sentiment as a highly dangerous threat to Obama's re-election platform. "The frustration—or, even anger—within the SEAL community is real, and has been brewing for months," he wrote in May. He compared the situation to 2004's Swift Boats Veterans for Truth campaign, which succeeded in raising doubts about Sen. John Kerry's war hero status. "Like Kerry’s war record, the vulnerability to the president’s Bin Laden story isn’t so much from [Republicans], as it from those who can claim the mantle of veteran." In Obama's case, many former SEALs claimed that mantle, but they're doing a terrible job carrying it.
The fall from grace began with Larry Bailey, a retired 27-year veteran of the Navy SEALs who founded the anti-Obama political group Special Operations Speaks. Bailey's military career placed him in a unique position to attack the president, but it didn't take him very long to get off message, as Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin found out. "I have to admit that I'm a Birther," Bailey told Rogin. "If there were a jury of 12 good men and women and the evidence were placed before them, there would be absolutely no question Barack Obama was not born where he said he was and is not who he says he is." In the interview, he also said Obama was a socialist who was raised by communists, which caught the attention of Obama campaign official Ben LaBolt who gleefully distributed the article to Washington reporters.
Read more at The Atlantic Wire.