The GOP swift boaters were hardly deterred when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney denounced their planned hit ad bankrolled by a Super PAC fronted by billionaire Joe Ricketts that dredged up the old slur that linked President Obama to his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. This was just a preliminary probe. The swift boaters are kicking their campaign of political dirt, mud and garbage slinging against Obama into high gear. Here's a checklist of their latest antics.
Right wing operative and blogger Brooks Bayne grabbed headlines when he loudly announced that his shadow group with the revealing name, The Trenches, will shell out thousands to anyone who posts Obama's college transcripts from Occidental College, Harvard University or Columbia University. The offer is patently unethical and borderline illegal since, with few exceptions, the leak or release of a student's transcripts violate the 1974 the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
This was followed by a stealth video with pictures of a young Obama purportedly toking on a joint, and a suit and tie glazed-eyed likeness of Obama puffing on a Turkish hookah, that an outfit named New Media Animation Limited from out of all places Taiwan, tried to send into viral orbit by inviting all to post the video on their websites. Then there's the viral video ad that accuses Obama of taking all the credit for the Bin Laden kill and politicizing the action allegedly for his own self-serving political gain. The video is produced by the same bunch that hammered Democratic presidential contender John Kerry in 2004 on his service record. In 2008, they went after then-Democratic presidential contender Obama with the blatant lie that Obama refused to meet with wounded veterans from Illinois.
Then there's Romney and Donald Trump. He gave a glowing tout and embrace of Donald Trump at a fundraiser. It may be remembered that he gained his bit of fleeting political notoriety by jumping all over the fraudulent Birther issue to get attention and pound Obama. Trump is still unrepentant on the issue. He recently questioned Obama's U.S. birth again.
Though Romney gently rebuked the Birthers, his bow to Trump gives wink and nod credence to an issue that almost certainly will be revived again in some way and at some time by yet another GOP Super PAC before November. The swift boaters' line of filth attacks are now firmly in place. Obama's birth, education, religious leanings, patriotism, and economic views will all be shamelessly and outrageously distorted to paint him as a demagogic, phony, drug-hazed, closet Marxist, Islamic extremist, hell-bent on subverting America's values.
The rotten campaign of lies, distortions, and personal venom against Obama can't be shrugged off or cavalierly dismissed as the dirty work of a lunatic fringe within the GOP that will have no impact or will backfire against the perpetrators. The history of presidential elections amply shows that slick, well-funded, hit ads churned out at the right time and in the right place during a heated campaign can have an effect. The swift boat ad attack on Kerry is a textbook example of that. But the ads that attempted to tie Wright to Obama just as momentum was building during his 2008 campaign had the potential to derail his effort. Obama had to deftly scramble to set the record straight to stave off a potential election catastrophe.
Money and the internet make the danger and the stakes in the dirty tricks campaign against Obama even greater this time around. Rickett's willingness to spend a lot on his aborted hit campaign against Obama was hardly the first hint of the massive amounts of money that will be dumped into the stealth campaign against him. In March, Houston construction magnate Bob Perry made a $3 million dollar donation to a pro-Romney Super PAC. This was the just the tip of the nefarious Super PAC ad financial iceberg. Perry's millions will be matched many times by other conservative money magnates. Whether Obama connected Super PACs will grab the seven figure donations that will flow to the GOP connected Super PACs remains to be seen.
But even if the money is there, Obama will play it straight and above board on the type of ads that his campaign will bankroll. They will hit Romney hard but they will hit him on the issues, the Bain attack ads being the best example. That's a legitimate area of attack, and is far different from spewing out below the belt lies about Romney's background and personal life.
The other hazard of the dirt campaign is the Internet. It is huge, and with just a click of a computer key can instantly propel a sleazy video onto legions of blogs, websites, and even newscasts. The hit video on Obama and his alleged pot smoking was a prime example of the potential of these ads to do great mischief.
Kerry has publicly expressed confidence that the type of swift boat campaign mounted against him won't work this time around since Obama and the Democrats know how the GOP operatives shovel their dirt out and they will be able to effectively counter it. They'll need to. The GOP swift boaters are ramping up against Obama.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.