Democrats, according to the Washington Post, worry that Barack Obama may turn into another John Kerry on the campaign trail.  Still obsessing over the understandable pushback from fellow Vietnam veterans who resented Kerry’s smear of them as war criminals at the start of his political career, Democratic insiders fear that Obama will not hit back hard enough at McCain’s attack ads.  Only in this front-pager by Jonathan Weisman and Perry Bacon, Obama’s smear of McCain as a racist oddly gets mentioned only indirectly:

 The parries come more than a week after his Republican opponent launched a string of increasingly personal attacks on Obama. McCain has said that his rival would lose a war in order to win a campaign, accused him of going to a gym rather than visiting wounded troops, and, while aides asserted that he had “played the race card,” hinted that Obama has a messiah complex and portrayed him as a celebrity comparable to Paris Hilton or Britney Spears. That final line of assault continued yesterday with a new McCain ad, again mocking Obama as “the biggest celebrity in the world.”

Such attacks have raised worries among Democratic strategists — haunted by John F. Kerry‘s 2004 run and Al Gore’s razor-thin loss in 2000 — that Obama has not responded in kind with a parallel assault on McCain’s character. Interviews with nearly a dozen Democratic strategists found those concerns to be widespread, although few wished to be quoted by name while Obama’s campaign is demanding unity.

“Democrats are worried,” said Tad Devine, a top strategist for Kerry who thinks Obama must stay on the high road. “We’ve been through two very tough elections at the national level, and it’s very easy to lose confidence.” 

Weisman and Bacon neglect to address why McCain and his campaign said that Obama had played the race card — a very strange omission in an article that makes Obama look reluctant to strike out at his opponents.  Obama on two separate occasions accused McCain’s campaign and the RNC of racism — once in June when he told an audience that they were planning race-based attacks on him, and once in late July when he accused McCain and the RNC of already attacking him on that basis.  Those two accusations prompted McCain to strenuously and publicly object to Obama’s race-card play.

In fact, had Weisman and Bacon read their own paper, they would have noticed that Dan Balz covered this issue this past weekend.  Balz reported that Obama’s campaign could not come up with a single example to support Obama’s contention that McCain had attacked him for “not looking like all of those other presidents on the dollar bills” or for his “funny name”.  Balz also notes that the Obama campaign did the exact same thing to Bill Clinton in the primaries, and it was Clinton who acted more like Kerry in the face of those attacks.

So far, most of the media has let Obama off the hook for his smear tactics against McCain, who has disciplined his own campaign and surrogates for even getting close to race-based attacks.  Casting Obama as the nice guy in this summer’s campaign is even worse than ignoring the reality of what Obama did to McCain.