The time has come to expunge from our political vocabulary a word that is offensive, demeaning, and profane to anyone who serves or has served in the Navy. That word is "swiftboating." A remark by a TV commentator after Super Tuesday two months ago triggered this plea.
Senator Barack Obama had just closed the gap with Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. This meant Obama was in trouble, the commentator said, because the Clinton machine was about to "swiftboat" him.
This verbal distortion arose during John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. In full disclosure, I supported Kerry then. A political action committee called Swiftboat Veterans for Truth (SBVFT), run by supporters of President Bush, savaged Kerry's achievements in Vietnam as a Swiftboat skipper in a fusillade of highly negative TV ads.
The Swifties, as the group became known, attacked Kerry relentlessly, claiming he had exaggerated his combat record and did not deserve his medals. There were other allegations, none with merit. It made no difference. The scurrilous and disgraceful attacks hit home and damaged Kerry's campaign. Truth was the first casualty.