The closer Barack Obama gets to the Democratic nomination, the uglier this thing is getting in racial terms. That Republican-funded North Carolina TV attack ad I saw today that tried to “Willie Horton” Obama was nothing sort of breathtaking. When was the last time in which the racial-attitude cards from the hunkered-down regions were laid more plainly on the kitchen table? The early to mid ’60s? As one MSNBC commentator said today, there are people out there who “made up their minds about [voting for an African-American candidate] back in 1957.”

Illustration by Tom Tomorrow

Is there any way to interpret Hillary Clinton‘s strategy but to say she’s clearly playing this situation (along with her ace-in-the-hole gender loyalty card) for all it’s worth? At the end of the day the ugly-duck reality is that Obama, who has to despise his opponent with every fibre of his being, may have no choice but to offer Clinton the Vice-Presidential spot. You don’t have to like or even respect someone to cut a deal with them. But would she take it?