DON’T POINT DUE NORTH…. It’s only fair to give Republicans credit for one of the party’s strongest skills: manufacturing a controversy out of nothing. Turning molehills into mountains is an art, and GOP leaders — in conjunction with their various allies — are genuine masters.

This week’s flap over a DHS report on potentially dangerous right-wing extremists is the best example of this, at least since the manufactured controversy over President Obama “apologizing” for American “arrogance.” Which was the best manufactured controversy since the administration’s plan to “cut” military spending. Which was the best since Obama “bowed.” Which was the best since the “outrage” over the president using a teleprompter. Which was the best since conservatives bristled after seeing the president chuckle during a “60 Minutes” interview.

Consider this take from Oliver North, chatting with Sean Hannity about the DHS report last night:

“[H]ere’s what’s really disturbing about [the DHS report]. One is the intrusion into political thought in America that vilifies those of us who have subscribed to any of those, or guys like you and me that subscribe to all of them.

“Second of all, it’s a twisted idea. They’re saying that right-wing extremism is the number one threat to American safety and security. That means that if you’re a Hamas organizer or a Hezbollah recruiter or a Somali terrorist trying to recruit suicide terrorists, you’re lower on the totem pole in terms of scrutiny than a regular American citizen concerned about these things, to include, outrageously enough, American veterans who they think are a target for being radicalized.”

This is so obviously ridiculous, it’s a challenge counting all the errors. The DHS report doesn’t “vilify” conservatives, unless North is prepared to argue that he and Hannity have embraced a extremist, borderline-violent ideology. The department isn’t singling out people like North and Hannity; it prepared a similar report about left-wing radicals (curious that no one seems worked about that one).

When North complains about what “they’re saying,” he’s referring to the Obama administration, which is also wrong, since the report in question was initiated and prepared by Bush administration officials. No one in any position of authority has ever said, in any context, that “right-wing extremism is the number one threat to American safety and security.” And the only reason officials believe veterans might be “a target for being radicalized” because veterans are often a target for being radicalized.

Here’s the thing: I suspect North and Hannity know their rhetoric is nonsense. Sure, they’re pretty far gone, but they’re not illiterate. No one is dumb enough to believe these arguments, not even these two.

Which is why I’m almost impressed with their act. I mean, really, how many days have these clowns kept this non-story alive?

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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.