A PRE-ELECTION MENTALITY…. The problem with Rick Santorum’s latest column isn’t just that it’s misguided, it’s also that the timing is all wrong. The headline reads, “The Elephant in the Room: Obama vs. United States.” The subhead argues, “The president is contemptuous of American values.”

Watching President Obama apologize last week for America’s arrogance — before a French audience that owes its freedom to the sacrifices of Americans — helped convince me that he has a deep-seated antipathy toward American values and traditions.

Either Santorum didn’t hear the president’s speech in Strasbourg last week, or he isn’t quite sharp enough to understand the nuances of what Obama had to say. It was not, for any reasonable person, a speech “apologizing for America’s arrogance.” Santorum is completely wrong, for all of the reasons we talked about a few days ago.

What I find more interesting, though, is the larger trend that this attack fits into. Ali Frick noted, “Santorum is just the latest right-winger to insist that, since Obama policies are not conservative, they are thus by definition anti-American. During the campaign, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) stated flatly, “Barack Obama’s views are against America.” Last week, Sean Hannity declared that Obama “harbors deep resentment that he just hides” and accused him of pandering to “the worst instincts of those who hate this country.”

The goal, it seems, is to convince Americans that Obama isn’t patriotic. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the far-right embraced the same goal last year before the election.

But therein lies the point: this is a pre-election argument. The right-wing drive was to scare people into voting against Obama, an effort that obviously came up short. But now that Obama is in office, attacking his love of country is kind of silly. Conservatives are left sputtering that the President of the United States is somehow hostile to the United States. Come 2012, these clowns are still going to be running around questioning the sitting president’s patriotism? Arguing that the man who’s been working to make his country stronger doesn’t really love the country? C’mon.

Note to the right: the election’s over. You lost. Time to come up with some new smears.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.