In a new advertisement released by the Lincoln Project, a conservative Vermont veteran on a crusade to quash President Donald Trump's reelection bid goes after the commander-in-chief again, this time by portraying him as a fake conservative.
Dan Barkhuff, a former Navy SEAL who is now an emergency room doctor at the University of Vermont Medical Center, also praised Trump's Democratic rival, Joe Biden, in the minute-long video titled "Conservative."
"I don't agree with Joe Biden on many issues," Barkhuff says in the ad. "But one thing we agree on is that we are a nation of laws, and the Constitution is a sacred document — a document that I fought for, and some of my friends died for."
"Protecting our freedoms and the rules of the game is a fundamentally conservative act," Barkhuff continues. "President Trump shows no such respect for the Constitution. He and his cronies disrespect freedom of assembly, due process and state's rights."
The ad was funded by the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump political action committee run by current and former Republicans. Posted on Monday, it is the second video starring Barkhuff and has amassed more than 600,000 views in a single day. Another video from late June, which featured the Vermont doctor calling Trump a "coward" over his handling of a reported Russian plot to pay bounties for the killing of American soldiers, had more than 1.5 million views.
In an interview with Seven Days last week, Barkhuff said the newest ad comes in response to the federal government’s widely criticized crackdown on protests in Portland, Ore. Federal agents have descended on the Northwestern city, arresting dozens and fueling unrest.
The first half of the ad shows images of Trump — including one of him holding a Bible during a photo op in front of a Washington, D.C., church — as well as several clips from protests. The video then transitions into a quasi-Biden campaign ad, showing the Democratic nominee greeting voters and looking, well, presidential.
"Joe Biden will conserve the Constitution. He will conserve the rule of law. He will conserve the American dream as we've promised it to our children," Barkhuff says in the video. "A vote for Joe Biden in this election is a vote for our Constitution."
Barkhuff said his first Lincoln Project spot garnered him a wide range of feedback. "There's some people who are hardcore Trumpists who are calling me a liberal pussy, and some folks who are quite progressive who are calling me a war monger," he said.
Indeed, the Lincoln Project has been scrutinized in recent weeks for peddling what some have called a hardline militaristic view of the world — citing Barkhuff's video as proof.
"By creating ads like this, the Lincoln Project is creating an impression that will prove useful to foreign policy hawks if Biden wins: that Trump’s defeat was due in part to disaffected Republicans who didn’t like Trump’s questioning of national security orthodoxy," Heer wrote.
Barkhuff, who describes himself as a Republican-leaning independent, said people who do not enjoy the ads are "entitled to their opinion."
He said the vast majority of responses have been positive. His political action committee, Veterans for Responsible Leadership, which he formed in the wake of Trump's 2016 election, has taken on roughly 1,200 new members since the first ad aired, and the group has received hundreds of donations.
"It’s generated a lot of movement," Barkhuff said. "We now have enough human resources to start branching out." One of his newest goals is to find ways to support protesters such as those in Portland — "in a strictly non-violent fashion," he said.
He also plans to continue working with the Lincoln Project. "We’ll be doing more," he said of the videos.