“Swift-boating” is a neologism used pejoratively to describe an unfair or untrue political attack. We started using it during the 2004 presidential campaign when an astro-turf group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, set out to wreck John Kerry’s campaign based on their false claim that he hadn’t earned a purple heart he had received.
Now, Donald Trump has taken on the mantel of swift-boater (to go along with his birtherism) in attacking John McCain’s status as a Vietnam War Hero. In recent televised remarks Trump claimed that McCain was a hero only because he was captured, and Trump said he preferred people who were not captured.
So let’s give you a little background, in case you’ve lived under a rock. McCain served as an attack aircraft pilot flying off aircraft carriers during the Vietnam War. He was shot down, injured in the crash, and captured. He then endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war, including periods of torture. In 1968, he refused a North Vietnamese offer of early release, because it would have meant leaving before other prisoners who had been held longer.
Now there is very little from a policy perspective that I agree with now-Senator McCain on, but that does not mean I do not respect his service, nor appreciate his heroism. No one should be allowed to question those aspects of McCain’s history and character without being dismissed as a lunatic.