WHEN BARONE GOES OVER THE EDGE…. Well, I certainly have my nomination for Wanker of the Day.

A roomful of academics erupted in angry boos Tuesday morning after political analyst Michael Barone said journalists trashed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans’ vice presidential nominee, because “she did not abort her Down syndrome baby.”

Barone said in an e-mail that he “was attempting to be humorous and … went over the line.”

Barone was speaking at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, to the 121st annual meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges, which calls itself the nation’s oldest higher-education association.

“The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby,” Barone said, according to accounts by attendees. “They wanted her to kill that child. … I’m talking about my media colleagues with whom I’ve worked for 35 years.”

Barone, a popular speaker on the paid lecture circuit, is a senior writer for U.S. News & World Report and principal coauthor of “The Almanac of American Politics.”

About 500 people were in the room, and some walked out.

I knew Barone was pretty far gone, but I had no idea he was this far gone.

Two months ago, Barone argued, in print, that Palin had “foreign policy experience” because Alaska “is the only state with a border with Russia.” That was probably a big hint that his political judgment had become seriously flawed.

But this tasteless, classless attack on Barone’s own colleagues is surprisingly vicious, even for a conservative ideologue.

Like a lot of political junkies, I’ve spent many an hour referencing the “Almanac of American Politics,” which wouldn’t exist were it not for Barone. Given this, it’s genuinely sad to see what’s become of him.

About a year ago, Mark Schmitt had a terrific item on Barone, noting that he’d embraced “a strange kind of conservatism, which seems based largely on the conviction that liberals are soft and stupid.”

If Barone wasn’t considering retirement before, maybe now would be a good time.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.