Senator Zinke’s Hypocritical, Dishonorable Attack on President Obama

State Senator Ryan Zinke, who started a Super PAC ostensibly to criticize President Obama’s politicization of the death of Osama bin Laden, seems to have forgotten that, in the hours and days immediately following the terrorist leader’s death, he was discussing the classified, secretive military unit and its operational details with reporters and media outlets all over Montana and the rest of the nation.

One of the claims that Mr. Zinke raised as justification for his PAC was the absurd conservative argument that the Obama administration outed the Navy SEAL Team Six responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. According to the International Business Times:

Zinke alleges that Obama personally put the troops at risk by identifying SEAL Team 6 as the commando unit that carried out the bin Laden raid and is “riding on the coattails of America’s military” to politicize his role as commander-in-chief.

This has been a common refrain among conspiracy-minded Republicans, who go so far as to assert that Vice President Biden and the President led to the deaths of members of the team responsible for the assault on bin Laden’s compound.

One element of that claim has always troubled me.  According to conservative critics of the administration, Vice President Biden “outed” the SEAL team at an evening dinner on May 3rd. Fox News reported that claim May 4, 2011. Investors Business Daily even wrote an editorial suggesting that Vice President Biden was responsible for outing Team Six.

However, on May 2nd at 12:21 p.m., the Helena Independent Record posted a story by Mike Dennison in which Zinke discussed specific details about the raid, including how many people were deployed, who Team 6 is deployed against and in what kind of missions, where the unit’s security would have been posted, and the unit’s rules of engagement.

At 2:00 a.m. on May 3rd, hours before Biden gave his remarks, Zinke was quoted in the Daily Interlake, not only giving credit for the kill to SEAL Team Six, but providing specific operational details about the unit, including its size and mission before the attack on bin Laden’s compound.

Another version of the Zinke story appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle even earlier, on May 2, 2011 at 4:26 p.m. The Flathead Beacon had the same story, posted some time on May 2, less than 24 hours after the announcement of bin Laden’s death. 

The timeline makes it clear that Senator Zinke has some explaining to do:

  • Sunday, May 1 at 11:35 p.m. EST President Obama publicly announced the death of Osama bin Laden at , only identifying the unit involved as a “small team of Americans.”
  • Monday, May 2 at Morning Pentagon Briefing spokesperson refuses to confirm identity of unit involved.
  • Monday, May 2 at 12:26 p.m. The Independent Record posts a story in which Zinke lists operational details about the mission and identifying Navy SEAL Team Six.
  • On Monday May 2 at 4:26 p.m. MST the Bozeman Daily Chronicle posted an AP story quoting Zinke giving credit for the raid to SEAL Team Six.
  • Tuesday, May 3 at 5:25 MST, Vice President Biden acknowledges that Navy SEALS were responsible, without identifying Team Six. He said, “He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.”
  • Thursday, May 12: Defense Secretary Robert Gates criticized the flood of news coverage that had become public through media reports.

The truth is that I am disinclined to believe that naming Navy SEAL Team Six threatened their lives in the way that Zinke alleges, but if he really believes it, how can he defend his behavior in the hours after the bin Laden announcement?

Even though sources were telling reporters about the involvement of Seals, Senator Zinke went much farther, going on record to provide specific details about the unit and confirming that SEAL team members had confirmed the unit’s involvement. Even as late as May 4, when the New York Times said of the team that it was “a unit so secretive that the White House and the Defense Department do not directly acknowledge its existence,” Senator Zinke was happy to confirm the existence of the unit.

Some of the outrageous conspiracy theories generated by that claim are not only offensive to the memory of those who later lost their lives, but to the honor of the United States and its government as a whole.  By trafficking in them, Zinke is engaging in the worst kind destructive, anti-American politics.

It’s should be unimaginable that Senator Zinke would have the indecency to attack President Obama for “trading U.S. security for political popularity” when he was running around to every news outlet he could find to talk about Navy SEAL Team Six–well before anyone else did. Perhaps Senator Zinke should have read the tagline in the anti-Obama video his site has posted:


Senator Zinke owes President Obama an apology–and he owes the rest of us an explanation.

Addendum: Senator Zinke’s deep respect for the military also apparently doesn’t extend to protecting the integrity of its logos, as Adam Jones at Mother Jones reports today:

According to the Department of Defense, each service branch’s symbols are trademarked, and their commercial and political use is tracked closely by military officials to prevent any appearance of the military’s endorsing a partisan or for-profit cause. The officials said they will be contacting the group and asking them to stop using the insignia or face potential legal action.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.


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  • I heard the Huckster (Huckabee) on KSEN/KZIN this morning talking about this. Of course, he was taking Zinke’s side.
    I went to the Huckster’s website to post a link to this blog, but evidently there is no way to comment to the Huckster unless you like him on Facebook or follow him on twitter. Two things that I refuse to do.

  • p.s. Don, your hometown radio station, while always being on the conservative side, sure has gone to the dark side these days!
    The only reason I listen to it is to get national/local news and to listen to the music. (Although it sucks that they switched formats between KSEN (AM) and KZIN (FM).
    They used to have classic rock on KZIN and country on KSEN. Now they are reversed.
    When I’m at home or in my car, I listen to KVVR The River in Great Falls.

  • Just to pat myself on the back, I noticed in a comment at the Cowgirl’s site that Zinke had no authority to use military symbols well before Mother Jones did.


  • Wow. Zinke really IS a nutjob! Dude sucked off Unca Sugartit for so long that he fried his brain! He should’a come up for air every once in a while. He appears to be a sad case. I seriously doubt that he could’a made it in civilian life. He don’t have the where-with-all. In other words, critical thinking skills!

  • MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! The Barking Seal makes Huffpo! But ya know, there’s sumthin’ REAL creepy ’bout a barking seal team teamin’ up with a lunatic who just LUVS him some death squads as a way to protect freedumb! (Livingscam) Can you say SEIG HEIL boys and girls? From seal team 6 to barking seal team zero! Barking seal team zero is kinda like barking spiders. They are simply a euphemism for farting! What a buffoon!

    • p.s. Hey, Jimmy Strauss balls (like mouse balls only smaller) of the GF Spitoon should give the barking SEAL team a weekly column too! What a great feature! We can’t seem to get enough of the “military” perspective on things! How bout it, Jimmy?

  • This was sad to me. In fact, I was surprised at how much information the public was given about the raid to find the #1 terrorist that we have been searching for years, but I never thought that anyone in our administration did not give credit to the service personnel who came up with the strategy, rehearsed it for months, and made it happen. Our President is the Commander in Chief of our country, it is his responsibility to direct our troops to protect not only us, but many other parts of the world through our alliances. I think we need to respect the office of both the President, and also his authority, and honor the soldiers who risk their lives daily for us by just saying “thank you for making our lives safer”. You did an incredible job. Thank you.

  • Don I think you should write during the day, and go to sleep and get at least 8 hours. I stand 100% behind Commander Ryan Zinke, what you should be concentrating is why we have a Socialist/Marxist President in the White House, that will lie and say anything to get reelected. Let me give you a title for your next article. What has President Obama Accomplished ? and you can start off by saying the REAL UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBER IS ABOUT 13% and you can continue to explain to your readers that in 3 1/2 years President Obama has spent 5Trillion Dollars and if you go all the way back to George Washington and add up to George Bush spending you will not get to 5 Trillion. Yes check my facts out like you did for Commander Zinke. By the way I bet you can’t wait for the movie to come out about the killing of Obama right before the election, tell you something that you should look at once again, remember that photo of Pres Obama & Hillary watching live Team 6 in action, look at Obama, tell me what you see? I see someone shitting in his pants, hopeing and praying this mission is successful, these are the men that risk their lives everyday for our country JUST LIKE COMMANDER ZINKE HAS DONE FOR 23 years. What have you done Don?

    • You lost me at Marxist.

      And even if any of the Glen Beck inspired nonsense you just spewed had any basis in truth, it wouldn’t change the fact that Mr. Zinke is raising money by claiming Obama jeopardized the truth–when Zinke did exactly what he alleges Obama did.

      It’s repulsive.

    • Of course, the US debt is at 15 trillion…so…yeah, what? If you start at George Washington and add up to George Bush and SUBSTRACT all the money this country has ever earned, you will get more than 5 trillion dollars. So…math much?

  • There is no shame in what Senator Zinke is doing. He is alot smarter and way more knowledgable than you, sir. There is only one place an order can come from that is outside all operational guidelines like what happened to those SEALS in Afganistan. The Senator and all the rest of us know it. That is the facts and you are an idiot for thinking anything else.

  • It’s amazing to me to see what lengths people will go to in order to cling to their opinion, when they are faced with pesky “facts” that they don’t find to their liking.

  • I fully believe Barack Obama made a deal with terrorist leaders. Osama bin Laden had become an old man, who would be more than willing to give his life to further his religious cause. In exchange for the “win” of bin Laden’s murder, Obama promised to hand over to the terrorists, the lives of dozens of Americas most elite warrior soldiers. And in the years to follow, Obama honored his beloved Islam with such acts as trading the life of American traitor Bowe Bergdahl- who’s own unit have said he wandered away freely, and liked spending time with Afghans more than his fellow Americans- for the lives of 5 Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay…. to rejoin and restart their terrorist activities. Hopefully the truth of all this will come out soon. And hopefully Barack Obama will “win” the death penalty for himself, for the treacherous acts of treason he committed against the United States of America and it’s people.

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