SECESSION ON THE TABLE — BUT ON HOLD…. It seems to me there was some talk a few years back about Hollywood celebrities who flirted the idea of leaving the United States if Bush/Cheney won. As I recall, this was widely ridiculed, and was seen as evidence that the entertainment industry was out of touch with American culture.

The argument, in a nutshell, was that any citizen who’d want to leave the country and stop being American must not love their country much. It’s a pretty basic test of patriotism.

It’s odd, then, to hear elected Republican officials casually throw around references to secession.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who’s been talking up the idea all week, tried to add some caveats yesterday to his secession talk:

“This is interesting that this has really kind of bubbled up, to uh… I refer people back to my statement, and I gotta a charge out of it. I was kinda thinking that, maybe the same people who hadn’t been reading the Constitution right were reading that article and they got the wrong impression about what I said.

“Clearly, I stated that we have a great union. And Texas is part of a great union. I see no reason for that to change. I think that may not be the exact quote, but that is, in essence what I said.”

Well, “essence” aside, what Perry actually said was that he saw “no reason” to “dissolve” the “union.” He added, “But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.”

Forget “wrong impressions.” What the elected chief executive of one of the nation’s largest states is supposed to say is secession is ridiculous. That Perry has left it on the table only helps reinforce how completely batty some Republican officials have become. If the GOP wants to rejoin the American mainstream, the party needs to reject these absurdities out of hand. It’s radical, fringe politics.

State Democratic lawmakers in Texas were not at all amused by Perry’s nonsense, and hosted a press conference yesterday to denounce the governor’s flirtation with madness. “Talk of secession is an attack on our country,” one state representative said. “It can be nothing else. It is the ultimate anti-American statement.”

Making matters slightly more ludicrous, Brian Beutler reported late yesterday that members of the Georgia Senate, the South Dakota House, and both chambers of the Oklahoma legislature have also unveiled non-binding resolutions on the nullification of the U.S. Constitution.

Remember, we’re not talking about right-wing bloggers or radio talk-show hosts, but actual elected officials, and in Perry’s case, a sitting governor.

All from the party that believes it has the moral high ground on patriotism and love of country.

Post Script: Just in case Texas decides to be its own country, Chuck Norris is interested in being its president. Seriously.

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.