TNR: How Team Obama played the race card

An essential companion piece to Karl’s typically excellent refutation of Josh Marshall this morning. Marshall may be a “prestige” blogger but he’s never been above conspiracy-teasing when it suits his ends; accusing McCain of being essentially in cahoots with the “Hussein” demagogues he’s spent the past two days disavowing is further evidence of it, and of TPM’s longstanding eagerness to find racial politics at work even in the most innocuous or well meaning instances. The aim is as clear as it is dishonest — to make McCain morally culpable for every repulsive insinuation leveled by people on his side, whether or not he repudiates it, and even if it comes from someone, like Coulter, who hates McCain.

If you want to see a politician remaining ostentatiously above the fray while winking at cretinous race-baiting by his supporters, look no further than the TNR piece about how deftly the “post-racial” candidate has leveraged ye olde racial playbook these past few months. Wilentz overstates his case — you’ll never convince me an “astute observer” like Billy Jeff didn’t know exactly what he was doing with that Jesse Jackson analogy in South Carolina — but I’ve written before myself about Jesse Jackson Jr’s predictable lowest-common-denominator pandering after New Hampshire and what a bad rap Clinton got on the “fairy tale” comment. Follow the link to see it all put together, bearing in mind that this is just the warm-up act for what’s waiting for the Republicans, of which Marshall’s whine is only the most tender beginning:

As insidious as these tactics are, though, the Obama campaign’s most effective gambits have been far more egregious and dangerous than the hypocritical deployment of deceptive and disingenuous attack ads. To a large degree, the campaign’s strategists turned the primary and caucus race to their advantage when they deliberately, falsely, and successfully portrayed Clinton and her campaign as unscrupulous race-baiters–a campaign-within-the-campaign in which the worked-up flap over the Somali costume photograph is but the latest episode. While promoting Obama as a “post-racial” figure, his campaign has purposefully polluted the contest with a new strain of what historically has been the most toxic poison in American politics…

It may strike some as ironic that the racializing should be coming from a black candidate’s campaign and its supporters. But this is an American presidential campaign–and there is a long history of candidates who are willing to inflame the most deadly passions in our national life in order to get elected. Sadly, it is what Barack Obama and his campaign gurus have been doing for months–with the aid of their media helpers on the news and op-ed pages and on cable television, mocked by “SNL” as in the tank for Obama. They promise to continue until they win the nomination, by any means necessary.

That he managed to pull this off while walking the tightrope of trying to draw black voters from Hillary while also not becoming the “black candidate” the Clintons were ready to frame him as if he succeeded is further proof, if any was needed, of how shrewd a politician he is. Not once that I can think of has the Messiah himself accused anyone of racial politics; when someone needs to put their hand on the shoulder of a black superdelegate who’s wavering and ask him if he’d like to be remembered as the man who thwarted the dreams of his people, the task gets farmed out to Jesse Jackson Jr. Expertly played, particularly in light of the coziness Karl recounts between Obama and that “eccentric” pastor of his.

Exit question: When does Obama pull a McCain and repudiate Dean-o’s comparison between the GOP field and white slaveholders?