An instant classic, blending the affected “righteous” shrillness of Keith Olbermann with the casual racial paranoia of Chris Matthews. The MSNBC-ization of the editorial page is thus complete:

The assertion that Mr. Obama is “just too extreme for North Carolina” is a clear bid to stir bigotry in a Southern state. The ad’s claim that its target is actually two Democratic gubernatorial candidates who endorsed Mr. Obama is ludicrous.

This is too familiar. In his 1990 re-election campaign, Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina ran the infamous “hands” ad showing two white hands crumpling up a letter while the announcer intones: “You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority.” His challenger, Harvey Gantt, a former Charlotte mayor, was, of course, African-American.

Althouse is incredulous but the logic here is the same as in that moronic LA Times op-ed declaring “elitist” to be the newest racial slur. Any personal attack on Obama from the right — and that includes Hillary Clinton, even though she’s but a hair’s breadth further towards the center than he is — will be spun by his apologists as motivated by racism. It’s a totally disingenuous, totally irresistible way to render damaging criticism of him illegitimate; in that sense, it goes hand in hand with his weaselly nonsense about everything that he doesn’t want to talk about constituting a “distraction.” Which, of course, is why conservatives are tearing their hair out over McCain’s squishiness about the ad: He’s ceding this point to the left, declaring any challenge to Obama’s basic judgment in his personal dealings to be some sort of ad hominem. Someone should ask him whether he considers the ad racist. I’m almost afraid to know.

Two other points. One, note that the spot includes photos of the two (white) Democratic gubernatorial candidates. If it hadn’t, if it had merely mentioned their names over images of Obama and Wright, the Times would have called it a sly attempt to make voters who may not know better believe that Moore and Perdue are themselves black. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Two, savor the easy smear of southern voters in the midst of this very sanctimonious harangue about prejudice. Mary Katharine wrote about the media’s assumptions about southern racism shortly before the 2006 midterms; if you’re white, have a drawl, and aren’t voting Democratic, you’re guilty until proven innocent — and since the left is perfectly happy to fall back on accusations of unconscious racism, there’s no way to prove yourself innocent. Nice to see nothing’s changed two years later, even after Obama captured more of the white male vote in Georgia than Hillary Clinton did. Remind me again, which southern Republican voting bloc decided to the tune of 20% that Obama’s race was an “important factor” in their vote? Oh, right — this one.