05/09/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Jul 09, 2012

Tragedy and Farce

There is a dictum attributed to Karl Marx that "History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce." Thanks to another Karl (Rove), the 2012 presidential campaign is shaping up to prove the dictum.

The tragedy was the "Swiftboating" of Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential campaign. This was a classic example of Karl Rove's strategy of attacking an opponent's strengths by lies and innuendo. A few wealthy donors funded a shady organization of right wing veterans to attack Sen. Kerry's military service record. Their false and despicable attacks did significant damage when Sen. Kerry did not immediately and aggressively refute the attacks. In the end, the Swift Boat Veterans were fined for breaking campaign laws, but that was long after the damage had been done, and the election lost. Then they disappeared.

The farce is a new secretive veterans group funded by wealthy right wing extremists attacking President Obama on his national security record -- a backhanded Rovean acknowledgement of the President's success in this field. But now, thanks to the Supreme Court Citizens United case, a few wealthy donors can fund such organizations freely, while remaining unidentified in the shadows. The organization, Veterans for a Strong America brags on its web site that it "... is not required to report donors, addresses, and places of employment to a federal agency like the FEC." This secrecy allows them the irresponsibility of anonymity.

The first web ad of this organization, hyped on Fox News, of course, goes after the president for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, accusing him of "spiking the ball." The ad tries to portray the president as taking full credit for the success of the mission and not giving the SEALs and intelligence community any credit. This is done by extracting every sentence where the president used the personal pronoun "I" to make it seem he is taking sole credit. The video leaves out Obama's statement segments such as:

A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.

Who are these distorters of truth and purveyors of lies? Their spokesman, Joe Arends, is a long-time GOP operative who worked on the Bush and McCain presidential campaigns; He also has ties to "Americans for Prosperity" a right wing Koch brothers operation. There's that secret money again. This "spokesman" is not listed on their web site ( The director is a retired U.S. Marine reserve major and the assistant director is a retired enlisted Marine. Neither seems to have had combat experience. Reportedly they are trying to recruit retired SEALS and other Special Forces veterans into their cabal. Together with their two advisors they seem most involved in Republican state and local politics. The organization gives all the signs of being a front organization to surreptitiously funnel funds to right wing candidates and smear campaigns.

Hopefully the media will not bite on their distorted ad, but if it is shown widely on paid media we will know that the Koch brothers and their ilk have opened their wallets. If so, the Obama campaign and legitimate veterans organizations such as VETPAC ( will fight this farce with the truth, because veterans are tired of having their service used as a political football for innuendo and smear campaigns.

The president's record speaks for the strength and success of the administration's national security policy. Under his leadership, we have captured or killed Osama bin Laden and dozens of top al Qaeda leaders, ended the Iraq misadventure, backstopped NATO in Libya, and implemented a surge with a responsible end game in Afghanistan. His calm but effective leadership, tightening the Iran sanctions noose, is an adult approach when several of the GOP presidential candidates wanted to unleash the dogs of war. President Obama has dispelled the myth that Democrats are weak on national defense. Karl Rove understands this. That is why he is attacking the president. This farce won't work. Truth will.