Just like it makes little sense to equate big lies and little lies for the sake of being "fair and balanced," it also makes little sense to dismiss a politics based on fear when some fear is fabricated or exaggerated and other fear is real. If one truly lives in a realty-based world, it is a necessity of survival to recognize the difference between real and imagined danger.
The Republicans won the 2004 election creating, fostering and playing upon people's fear of terrorist acts within our borders. They have been excoriated mostly by Democrats and progressives for doing so. And the Republicans are doing it again, although in some ways more subtly than before. Yes, they still raise the specter of the Islamic terrorists coming here and the inability of the Democrats to deal with this threat. But they also do it less directly, playing on Obama's race (or half of it) and his "questionable" background.\
People who are convinced that having an African American president would be a disaster based on race alone or are worried that Obama is a closet Islamic terrorist will not change their minds and vote for Obama. I think there are not that many people who fall into this category and that most of those who do wouldn't be voting for any Democrat, including, if not especially, Hillary Clinton. I think most people are not that scared of Obama. On the other hand, if anything should scare the crap out of the American people, it's the prospect of McCain being President and Palin being next in line.
There are very real fears about a McCain/Palin administration from issues like the economy and national security, and even scarier concerns about temperment and competence. If Democrats believe there is real danger in electing these two, there should be no compunction in expressing that fear explicitly and often. Doing so would entail some truly hard-hitting ads. It's one thing to talk about 4 more years of Bush and quite another to talk about how frightening that would be with McCain and Palin. If the prospect of a McCain/Palin administration is frightening, then it makes sense for reasons of survival to frighten people about such a prospect.
Listing all the ways a McCain/Palin administration would be like a Bush/Cheney administration or how out of touch McCain is is one thing. Raising the specter of such an outcome at a visceral level is quite another and one that would likely be more effective because it plays to people's guts rather than to their heads.
I envision a split screen with Palin on one side and a slide show of heads of state, both friendly and unfriendly, on the other with a voice over asking how much would you trust her to deal on an equal level. Or another screen showing McCain losing his temper and storming out of committee meetings (there are such videos) asking if this is the kind of person we want with their finger on the button. I'm sure there are many other scenarios, but the point is to explicitly raise the issue of how dangerous it is to elect these two. It's not a lie - it's at least as true as the constructed fears the Republicans play to - and, in fact, is a reality to many of us and a reality that many others would share.