An op-ed in today’s New York Times delivers a stark assessment of John McCain and Sarah Palin’s strategy of instilling fear of Barack Obama, whom McCain referred to as “that one” (click through for video) during last night’s debate and whom Palin has insisted “palls around with terrorists” and does not “see America as you see it.”

They have gone far beyond the usual fare of quotes taken out of context and distortions of an opponent’s record into the dark territory of race-baiting and xenophobia. Senator Barack Obama has taken some cheap shots at Mr. McCain, but there is no comparison.

The debate was a failed opportunity for McCain, who at times resorted to snide remarks (click through for video) and often relied on factually incorrect claims. While Obama made a concerted effort to answer questions clearly, the Times notes that McCain “offered no real answers for how he plans to solve the country’s deep economic crisis.”