WASHINGTON -- Let me get this straight. A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association -- with total strangers, mind you -- but worse: guilty according to The New York Times of "race-baiting and xenophobia."
But should you bring up Barack Obama's real associations -- 20 years with Jeremiah Wright, working on two foundations and distributing money with William Ayers, citing the raving Michael Pfleger as one who helps him keep his moral compass (Chicago Sun-Times, April 2004) and the long-standing relationship with the left-wing vote-fraud specialist ACORN -- you have crossed the line into illegitimate guilt by association. Moreover, it is tinged with racism.
The fact that, when John McCain actually heard one of those nasty things said about Obama, he incurred the boos of his own crowd by insisting that Obama is "a decent person that you do not have to be scared (of) as president" makes no difference. It surely did not stop John Lewis from comparing McCain to George Wallace.
The search for McCain's racial offenses is untiring and often unhinged. Remember McCain's Berlin/celebrity ad that showed a shot of Paris Hilton? An appalling attempt to exploit white hostility at the idea of black men "becoming sexually involved with white women," fulminated New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. He took to TV to denounce McCain's exhumation of that most vile prejudice, pointing out McCain's gratuitous insertion in the ad of "two phallic symbols," the Washington Monument and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Except that Herbert was entirely delusional. There was no Washington Monument. There was no Leaning Tower. Just photographs seen in every newspaper in the world of Barack Obama's Berlin rally in the setting he himself had chosen, Berlin's Victory Column.
Herbert is not the only fevered one. On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek fell over themselves agreeing that the "political salience" of the Republican attack on ACORN is, yes, its unstated appeal to racial prejudice.
This about an organization that is being accused of voter registration fraud in about a dozen states. In Nevada, the investigating secretary of state is a Democrat. Is he playing the race card too?
What makes the charges against McCain especially revolting is that he has been scrupulous in eschewing the race card. He has gone far beyond what is right and necessary, refusing even to make an issue of Obama's deep, self-declared connection with the race-baiting Jeremiah Wright.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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