THEY’RE NOT HANDLING IT WELL…. It’s unfortunate that emergencies can sometimes bring out the worst in people. One wants to think that during trying times people will rise to the occasion, which only makes watching the right respond to the swine flu emergency all the more discouraging.

David Weigel, for example, talked to Wendy Wright, the president of the conservative group Concerned Women for America and a prominent leader in the conservative movement, about Kathleen Sebelius’ HHS nomination. Wright said, out loud, without joking, that the administration’s response to the flu outbreak may be part of a plot to get Sebelius confirmed.

“Some people think that declaring a state of emergency about the flu was a political thing to push the Sebelius nomination through,” said Wright. She pointed to news stories that ask whether the slow-walking of the Sebelius choice will hurt the response to the flu. “If there’s even a hint that [Department of Homeland Security] is manipulating the health situation to push a political appointee through, well, it almost defies imagination that they’d be willing to that.”

Wright said that she’d heard the speculation “on talk radio,” and wanted to be skeptical, but “there’s too much of a basis in that argument to easily dismiss it.”

It’s not only Wright who seems to be cracking. Media Matters reported, “Rush Limbaugh claimed that the Obama administration’s response to cases of swine flu in the U.S. ‘is designed to expand the role and power of governments and schools,’ while Glenn Beck said the motivation behind the response ‘could be to move [President Obama’s] Health and Human Services person into the office rapidly.’”

As twisted as these responses are, digby explained nicely why these conservative leaders are throwing nonsensical tantrums: public health emergencies require robust government responses and people behaving with the greater good in mind. Too many on the right simply can’t tolerate such a dynamic.

Public health crises tend to focus the public on the usefulness of things like science, international cooperation, government coordination. You know, the sort of thing that liberals think are necessary. Something like that simply doesn’t fit into the conservative worldview. They see all problems and challenges in schoolyard terms of good guys and bad guys. This kind of challenge (like global warming) falls outside the paradigm by which they organize their world. Pandemics, like hurricanes, can’t be dealt with by using tough talk and threats. So, they are lost.

For what it’s worth, congressional Republicans haven’t repeated the bizarre ideas coming from their base, at least not yet, but the emergency has had no effect on the Senate GOP’s decision to try to block the Senate from even voting on the president’s nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s as if they’re suffering from a pre-flu mindset.

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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.