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Rescuing itself from the obscurity it richly deserves, the NAACP has found a way back onto the front page: Accuse the tea-party movement of harboring racists.

At its Kansas City convention, NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous declaimed: “Expel the bigots and racists in your ranks, or take the responsibility for them and their actions. We will no longer allow you to hide like cowards.”

Is it not an absurd world we live in?

Here is an organization whose very name, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, pronounces its goal – advancement through affirmative action, quotas, contract set-asides based on race – accusing another organization of being motivated by race.

Jealous might revisit the Sermon on the Mount.

“Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged. … Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

If discrimination means favoring people or opposing people based on race, two questions arise. Is that not pretty much the job description of the NAACP? And when has the tea party advocated hirings, promotions or school admissions based on race?

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In the South Carolina gubernatorial primary, the tea party backed a woman of Indian-American descent, Nikki Haley, who was raised a Sikh, over three white men with superior resumes.

In the GOP primary in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, African-American Tim Scott, with tea-party backing, routed Strom Thurmond’s son three to one.

In Florida, the tea party vaulted a Hispanic, Cuban-American Marco Rubio, into so strong a lead over favorite Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for the U.S. Senate that Crist quit the GOP.

And the NAACP?

In the year 2000, the organization ran an ad using the daughter of James Byrd, the victim of a dragging death by white racists, to imply Gov. George W. Bush’s opposition to a hate-crimes bill meant that Bush was indifferent to the lynching of James Byrd.

This was as nasty a piece of political advertising as has been run in our time. When or where has the tea party run such a despicable ad?

In the last month, the major story with a racial dimension has been the charge that Eric Holder’s Justice Department dropped an open-and-shut case against members of the New Black Panther Party of Philadelphia, two of whom were caught on tape threatening and intimidating white voters in the November 2008 election.

Justice’s J. Christian Adams, who resigned to protest dropping the Panther case, testified before the Civil Rights Commission that attorneys in the Civil Rights Division of Justice were told to ignore cases involving black defendants and white victims.

A tape has now turned up where New Black Panther Minister King Samir Shabazz, one of the two charged with voter intimidation, rants before a small crowd: “You want freedom. You’re gonna have to kill some crackers. You’re gonna have to kill some of their babies.”

Perhaps we can hear from the NAACP on the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. Perhaps we can hear more from the NAACP on the ugliest form of racism in America, interracial violent crime – which, according to FBI statistics, is largely black-on-white, not the reverse.

Remarkable. In the black community, the jobless rate is 15 percent, the dropout rate is sometimes 50 percent, the illegitimacy rate is over 70 percent, nearly a million black Americans are in jail, prison or juvenile detention – and the NAACP is passing resolutions denouncing some guys carrying signs portraying Obama as The Joker.

According to a CBS poll this week, the five issues of most concern to all Americans, having to do with the president and Congress, are the economy (far and away No. 1), deficits and debt, Afghanistan and Iraq, health care and the oil spill.

None of these issues has anything directly to do with race.

Jealous and the NAACP are trying to change the subject from Obama’s failure to Obama’s race, and from the failures of liberals to the motivations of conservatives.

By accusing the tea party of harboring racists, the NAACP is, in effect, demanding that the party appear in a court of public opinion to prove itself innocent of an unsupported slander.

Sorry, that’s not how things work in America.

Folks here are innocent until proven guilty, and name-calling is the last recourse of exhausted minds, to which attention need not be paid. The NAACP has become what Graham Green called a “burnt-out case.”

As longshoreman-philosopher Eric Hoffer observed, every great movement begins as a cause, eventually becomes a business, then degenerates into a racket. Time for the Ford Foundation to pull the plug on its subsidiary, whose time has come and gone a long time ago.

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