To Swift-Boat or Not

It's easy to say you wouldn't swift-boat your opponent. But what if it were the only way to get elected?

Polaris

John Kerry (far right) as a lieutenant in the Vietnam War with some of his crew aboard the "Swift Boat."

John McCain and Barack Obama are about to face a moral choice. It will probably be made in bits and pieces over the next five months, but we can imagine it as a single dramatic incident: the adviser approaches and says, "Yes or no. Do you want to swift-boat?" If you were the presidential candidate, what answer would you give?

Swift-boat is shorthand for the brilliant, despicable Republican campaign strategy in 2004 that turned John Kerry's honorable service in Vietnam into a negative factor in his campaign. The phrase has become more broadly the term for a particular category of campaign...

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