NYUK, NYUK, NUKE…. What is it about conservatives and their attitudes about attacks on U.S. cities?

A few years ago, TV preacher Pat Robertson said he welcomed a nuclear attack on the State Department, telling a national television audience, “Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up.” A couple of years later, Bill O’Reilly welcomed a terrorist attack on San Francisco. The Fox News personality told al Qaeda, “You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”

And yesterday, the Bush administration’s former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, generated wild applause joking about a nuclear attack on Chicago.

“The fact is on foreign policy I don’t think President Obama thinks it’s a priority,” Bolton said. “He said during the campaign he thought Iran was a ‘tiny’ threat. Tiny, tiny depending on how many nuclear weapons they are ultimately able to deliver on target. It’s, uh, it’s tiny compared to the Soviet Union, but is the loss of one American city — pick one at random, Chicago — is that a tiny threat?”

Jonathan Stein noted, “Bolton wasn’t the only one who thought this was funny. The room erupted in laughter and applause. Was this conservative catharsis, with rightwingers delightfully imagining the destruction of a city that represents Obama? Or perhaps they were venting vengeance with their laughter.”

Either way, it’s evidence of a twisted ideology. I find it hard to believe Bolton sincerely wants to see Chicago hit by a nuclear strike, but if the right would stop welcoming cataclysmic attacks on Americans, I’d feel a little better about their seemingly sick psyches. (I also shudder to think what the reaction would be if, say, a prominent official from a Democratic administration appeared at the Take Back America conference and joked about a nuclear attack on an American city.)

Post Script: By the way, Bolton took Obama’s “tiny” quote out of context. He’s not only joking about domestic terrorism and the death of millions; he’s lying about it, too.

Steve Benen

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.