Palin has been deputed to play it the most crudely:

Obama “launched his political career in the living room of a domestic terrorist.” He is “palling around with terrorists” (note the plural noun). Obama is “not a man who sees America the way you and I see America.” Wielding a wildly out-of-context Obama quote, Palin slurs him as an enemy of American troops.

By the time McCain asks the crowd “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it’s no surprise that someone cries out “Terrorist!” The rhetorical conflation of Obama with terrorism is complete. It is stoked further by the repeated invocation of Obama’s middle name by surrogates introducing McCain and Palin at these rallies.

This sleight of hand at once synchronizes with the poisonous Obama-is-a-Muslim e-mail blasts and shifts the brand of terrorism from Ayers’s Vietnam-era variety to the radical Islamic threats of today.

That’s a far cry from simply accusing Obama of being a guilty-by-association radical leftist.

Attacking Obama for his toleration of Bill Ayers is legitimate. Attacking him for not dissociating himself from Jeremiah Wright earlier is legitimate. Attacking him for raising taxes is fine. But associating him with "terrorists" in the context of large, angry crowds isn't. Calling him a traitor and someone who seeks to put US troops in harm's way in an emotionally fraught time isn't. Not immediately and strongly rebuking crowd cries of "terrorist," "kill him!" and "treason" isn't.

McCain must loudly and clearly disown and disavow this rhetoric soon. Or we all may live to regret it more deeply than we can currently imagine.

(Photo: Jewel Samad/Getty.)

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