Time reporter: McCain's Franklin Raines ad is racist because, um, he released it before the Jim Johnson one

Cuffy Meigs is all over it. This started last night with Karen Tumulty asserting, on the basis of zero evidence except her own Gergenesque “I know it when I see it” secret racial decoder ring, that McCain’s ad was racist for showing a white victim being exploited by former Fannie Mae CEO turned Obama advisor Raines, who’s black, but not former Fannie Mae CEO turned Obama advisor Jim Johnson, who’s white. Come the morning and what do you know: Here’s that Johnson ad now. Was it rushed into production to head Tumulty and the racial paranoiacs off at the pass? Nope — according to Ana Marie Cox, it’s been in the works for days.

The facts are pointing one way and her secret racial decoder ring’s pointing in the other. What’s an honest reporter to do? This, of course:

Yes, Ana. The ad pointing out the Jim Johnson connection to Obama’s campaign is fair, which raises the question of why the campaign didn’t air that one in the first place.

Really? Why does it raise that question? What significance lies in the fact that one ad dropped 12 hours before the other? No word yet from Time HQ. But if you think I’m kidding that her argument boils down to “I know it when I see it,” here’s Tumulty explaining her “logic” in the comments:

I have been a political reporter long enough to have lived through Willie Horton, the Jesse Helms infamous “hands” ad and to have covered races in the South where people have used the slogan “one of us.” I know what this stuff looks like. In this case, the McCain campaign chose NOT to draw attention to the very real connections between Fannie Mae and the campaign (Jim Johnson and campaign contributions), and instead, focused on this one. If Raines had been included in an ad that mentioned the others, that would have been well within the bounds of fairness as well.

QED. Karen Tumulty knows, and that’s that. Gergen gave a similar excuse, about having special decoding knowledge by virtue of being from the south, back when he defended his own moronic interpretation of the “racism” inherent in calling Obama an elitist. Our southern readers are invited to address that argument in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll give you even odds that we see a follow-up at Time this afternoon splitting the difference by claiming yes, okay, upon further review the campaign might not consciously have intended anything racist, but they’re Republicans and they’re criticizing someone who’s black and so, hey — close enough. Exit question: Which racial stereotype is the Raines ad supposedly playing on? Until now, the left’s fantasies about the subtext of McCain’s ads have at least been tethered to traditional racist tropes. The Britney ad was alleged to be a gloss on black men threatening white women, the claims of elitism were alleged to be a gloss on blacks being “uppity,” etc. Which one does Tumulty have in mind? Is there some old southern smear about black men conspiring to scam people with bad mortgages that I’m not aware of?