Some of Barack Obama's political and media allies are having a hard time coming to grips with what motivates his opponents -- or understanding why their offensive has been so effective.
They seem to have even a harder time fashioning counterarguments to respond to the complaints being voiced by so many Americans who are unhappy with many of the president's policies and proposals on health care, energy, spending, taxes and the economy.
So some of them have stooped to one of the dirtiest attack lines in their political arsenal: That his opponents -- in Congress, among the "tea party" protesters and the legions of voters who packed the nation's town halls during the August recess -- are motivated by racism against a black president.
Former President Jimmy Carter descended to this level when he said last week, "I think it's based on racism." He was referring to South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during Obama's address to a joint session of Congress on his healthcare plan.
But Carter said racism was behind more than just Wilson's remark, for which Wilson apologized. He said it's fueling much of the sizable public opposition to Obama's presidency -- the protesters at the anti-big-government rallies and the town-hall gatherings.
"Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care. It's deeper than that," Carter said.
"There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president," he said.
Others are also angrily deploying the racism attack tactic. Writing in the New York Times, acid-pen columnist Maureen Dowd suggested that race was at the heart of growing public opposition to Obama's liberal agenda.
"Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it," she said.
Well, yes, unfortunately there are those who no doubt think that, but is that motivating the widespread political opposition to Obama's programs and proposals? Anyone listening to the people who stood up to voice their complaints at last month's town-hall meetings know that's not the case.
"If Barack Obama was white and had proposed the things that he has proposed, with their very liberal implications, there would be an equal amount of anger at the white president," said veteran political pollster Whit Ayres.