Last night, Charles Krauthammer and Fred Barnes ripped the Barack Obama campaign and its supporters for the repetitive, unsubstantiated charges of racism against John McCain’s campaign and Republicans in general.  Krauthammer in particular excoriated those tossing this rhetorical bomb, at length.  However, Barnes summed up exactly why they keep doing it:

When John McCain runs an ad with a white woman, Paris Hilton in it, he is accused of racism. He runs an ad with Franklin Raines, the former head of Fannie Mae in it, who is African-American, and that’s racist. And then he runs an ad with William Ayers, who is a white male in it, and that’s racist.

If it weren’t so comical, these promiscuous accusations of racism, it would be tragic. …

And to accuse preemptively McCain of racism even before there is any evidence of it, and there has not been any evidence of it before or since, is scurrilous.

They say patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Accusations of racism is the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel, and it has been used again and again on the part of the Obama campaign.

So why do they do it?  It works.  And why does it work?  Barnes explains:

Right, because when they use it, it neutralizes an attack, and then you don’t have to answer it.

Rick Moran made the same point yesterday.  It’s a particularly vicious smear, simply because it attacks presumed motives, not actual actions.  Somehow mentioning Ayers, who is white, is racist not because of Ayers himself but because the critic supposedly operates from hate and therefore every possible criticism is racist.  And because it’s racist, the criticism requires no answer.

I wish journalists around the nation had paid attention to this when they could have effectively rebuked Obama and his supporters for doing this — say, when they smeared Bill Clinton as a racist hater.  I don’t blame him a bit for his resentment over those tactics, nor for the silence from the previously-toadying media over it.  Once in power, we will see that card get played over and over against critics across the spectrum, regardless of whether they supported Obama or not.  Or, even more insidiously, the media will factor that into their editorial decisions and simply decide that criticism isn’t worth the “racist” blowback.

Like Ed Whelan, I’m not so sure about it being the “last” refuge, either.  This sounds like the natural evolution of the political correctness movement of the 1980s and the speech codes that followed.