‘South Pacific” is a morality play for our time. Sarah Palin is the Ensign Nellie Forbush — an All-American girl as racist, this time a racist with her eye on the White House. She can stir up crowds to shout “Kill him!” at the mention of the presidential candidate of the other party a couple of weeks before the national election.

In the restaurant, before I walked over to the theater, all the conversations were about the election — New Yorkers speak loudly in their noisy city for fear they will not be heard. The common opinion was that they didn’t know enough about Barack Obama to make a decision about him — as if there were not two books about his life. That plea implies that they don’t know enough about him to accept his strange name or his skin color. It is, of course, impossible that they could ever know enough. He isn’t one of us.

It is all part of a plan cooked up by John McCain to turn the major issue in the election from the economy to the character of the Democratic candidate. At this stage of the contest, I don’t think “kitchen-sink strategy” (as in “we’ll throw the kitchen sink at him”) will change the outcome of the election. I don’t believe the polls that suggest a possible Obama landslide. Playing the race card explicitly merely guarantees what I have thought from the beginning — racism in this country precludes the possibility of a sepia-colored man becoming president. However, the last-ditch attack on him guarantees that McCain and Palin will be blamed as the candidates who were content to hear crowds calling for the death of Obama.

Ensign Nellie Forbush (the incomparable Kelli O’Hara) finds redemption at the end of South Pacific. She turns to her true love and escapes the obligation to wait for the enchanted evening on which he might suddenly might appear across a crowded room. For Sarah Palin, such an easy escape hardly seems possible. How can she ever justify silence when she heard a cry for lynching?

McCain increasingly acts like an angry, befuddled cancer survivor and treats his rival like a field n—– who is just barely human. He does not talk to him, will not shake hands with him, will not even look at him, walks behind him when he is speaking to distract the audience. Obama’s languid, legs-crossed security on the bar stool must infuriate McCain all the more. Who does he think he is? He has no right to run for president and McCain does. Has not he served his country all his life? Has not he traveled the whole world? Has not he been involved in every major event of the last four decades? Does he not know everyone who is worth knowing? And what does his rival have to offer besides intolerable arrogance? Black skin and glib language? Is not Obama the one who is playing the race card? Therefore he must be exposed as what he is — a pushy fellow with a glib tongue who has no right to challenge a great American like John McCain.

McCain has little time left. He has been been cheated in other elections. Troubled and distracted, he has forgotten his strong words about honor. When one is faced with a shallow man who is running on the basis of his skin color, one can hardly worry about personal honor.

Now the furies are gathering.