The New Swift Boaters? Really?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 4 2012 1:55 PM

The New Swift Boaters? Really?

Michael Hastings has quickly become the Boswell of the New Swift Boat beat. Will Veterans for a Strong America become the New Swift Boat Vets and POWS for Truth? Karl Rove says that they've got a "powerful ad," after all.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.

Advertisement

Far be it for those of us who haven't won two presidential campaigns to criticize Rove. He is a fan of the attack-at-their-strength strategy; this is absolutely an attack on Obama's greatest campaign story. But this 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. Let's just look at the classic Swift Vets ad.

 

What do you have that you lack in the VSA ad?

- Veterans, with names and faces, making the argument.

- Evidence (or "evidence") that Kerry was a faux hero. A doctor says his Purple Heart wasn't earned.

- Anger (which had festered for 30 years) over Kerry's anti-war activism.

Back to the OBL ad. The argument is that Obama, having ordered the OBL operation, does not have the right to brag about it. Only the SEALs do. And they would never brag. It's a kind of "stolen valor" theory. Except... the 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.

Some political attacks are twelfth-dimensional chess that only the pros understand at first. This feels more like venting by people who hate the fact that Obama can mention the OBL killing. Is the Rove endorsement intended to spook Democrats out of including it in the DNC, possibly? Democrats fear Rove, sure, but these days it's less for his acumen and more for his ability to collect million-dollar checks. If American Crossroads ran this ad, it might scare them. The web video/tweet campaign feels like a trial balloon that somebody forgot to fill with helium.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.