These are desperate times. Candidates need to ‘close the deal’, the media must fill air and space with the sights and sounds of political battle, and the administration wants to preserve what it refers to, rather humorously, as the Bush legacy. The political landscape has become thoroughly infused with delusional politicos and panderers.

Senator Clinton made it okay to focus on race and class in West Virginia where coal is king, education of lesser importance. In one alarming interview a West Virginian said he supported the war in Iraq because it “was good for coal.” And old-time racism surfaced as Obama volunteers often met with racial slurs, campaign signs burned, doors slammed in faces and, in some cases, threats made – – not a proud moment in our political history, hold the confetti. Attracting racially motivated voters to enhance one’s political fortunes will always be a low-road approach.

Some say her remarks about “hard-working whites” were just the simple truth regarding a constituency she could claim. Yet her USA Today interview might have been a factor influencing John Edward’s endorsement of Barack Obama. At the time of the interview Edwards warned that Hillary needed to be careful not to damage the Democratic Party’s prospects in the fall with her rhetoric – – a growing concern among the party faithful

In appeals to the usually oblivious, both Senators Clinton and McCain tried to make the case for a gas-tax holiday over the summer, an idea that met with derision from economists, and surprisingly, was not embraced by most Americans either. For once a blatant political overture that must have seemed like a sure thing to its promoters failed to gain traction, as motorists began to use mass transit where available and drive more slowly to conserve gas – –  making the best of a bad situation one might say.

Most unsettling of all, however, are the outrageous verbal assaults Republicans have begun to make against Democrats, Obama in particular. Senator McCain and the President have engaged in such scurrilous and demeaning attacks one feels a sense of shame they seem incapable of experiencing themselves. It was bad enough that McCain used a Hamas official’s remarks to imply Obama had some terrorist connection. But the president’s political asides in his address to the Knesset in Israel on Thursday were so inappropriate and so despicable that beneath contempt doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Ever tone-deaf in his arrogant disregard for decorum and decency Mr. Bush pandered before an Israeli audience, dredging up visions of Hitler, deriding the “false comfort of appeasement” and the “foolish delusion” of those who would try to engage terrorists – – taking a cheap political shot at Obama who never suggested negotiating with terrorists but rather meeting with national leaders we may not regard as friends.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Senators McCain and Lieberman and Representative Boehner who were delighted to take up the cause of branding Obama naïve and ill-prepared to lead the nation. But what exactly are the Bush foreign-policy triumphs? An acquiescent mainstream press credits Republicans with national-security credentials that are largely undeserved. Certainly our military incursion hasn’t produced Middle East stability and in fact has had some undesirable results – – a weakened, war-torn Iraq has made Iran stronger while Al Qaeda, left to its own devices in Afghanistan, has regrouped.

Clearly Mr. Bush has no real leadership skills, no military smarts, and no sound foreign or economic policies. His mindless bellicose posturing led us into a costly military adventure that, if it wasn’t about oil, had no reasonable basis at all, leaving our country awash in debt and financial uncertainty.

And how does Senator McCain come by a reputation for excellence in the field of foreign affairs? Is chairing or being a member of the Foreign Relations Committee all it takes to be considered an expert? McCain promises that after his first term, the war in Iraq will have been won, most of our troops will have come home and Bin Laden will have been captured or killed. Will the American people accept assurances about the future from someone who has supported Bush intransigence for so long?

Suggesting others are delusional is shaky ground for a president whose actions and words tend to be divorced from reality. The scary thing though isn’t that the president and McCain are themselves delusional but rather that the nation has been successfully deluded by them for so long.