Kathryn Lopez

This particular media circus has been just one of a number of them this election cycle. For days on end, Republicans were blasted for being racist because of a silly ad they ran criticizing Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford for attending a Playboy party. In it, a white blonde woman with a come-hither look addresses Ford, "Call me." That, we were supposed to believe, is racist, because Ford is black and Republicans are counting on Tennesseans to feel racist horror at the idea of a white woman's interest in him.

To anyone living in the year 2006, this is a ridiculous claim. But Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" made it all clear, shortly after a segment on the Tennessee ads. Matthews praised some ads of Maryland Republican Michael Steele, who is black. "I love the ads, my wife loves the ads, they're really funny, some of them. And very unthreatening. An African-American guy, it seems, has to run an ad that's so unthreatening that he's almost child-like in his presentation, but it seems to be working."

Uh, of the two -- the anti-Ford ad and the weird Matthews comments -- which sounds more racially condescending? Don't get me wrong, Matthews is no racist. But it just goes to illustrate that in a 24/7 election-season news cycle, with passions running high, it's often hard to stay focused on what's most important and to be as judicious in one's use of language as one ought to be.

But the good news is that silly season doesn't last forever. Whoever wins on Nov. 7, despite the Missouri decision we'll wake up the next morning still at war in Iraq, still at war against global terrorists -- with hefty issues here and abroad to face. I'm still going to disagree with, say, Michael J. Fox, but all of us -- mean-spirited "Fox-haters," nutty TV hosts, candidates from every party (including those, like Democrat Joe Lieberman who were forced to leave theirs) -- will find we have a lot of work left to do, work we must do together.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.