BACHMANN RAISES THE ISSUE OF ‘MENTAL STABILITY’…. You can enjoy Glenn Beck’s deranged worldview, or you can enjoy Michele Bachmann’s deranged worldview, but for real entertainment, you can watch one “interview” the other.

Yes, the Minnesota Republican appeared on the infamous Fox News program yesterday, and said a lot of the things you’d likely expect her to say. Cap and trade is anti-freedom? Check. The census can be used to round up Americans for internment camps? Checkity check. ACORN is scary and dangerous? Checkity check check.

But Bachmann did break a little new ground: “Does the federal government really need to know our phone numbers? Do they really need to know, like you said, the date and time that we leave? Mental stability?

“You know the one question that’s not on this survey, Glenn? ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’ This would be your perfect opportunity to find out how many illegal aliens are in the United States. Guess what? That’s the one question they don’t ask on this.”

First, the form asks for a phone number, but it’s not required, and it’s only there so the Census Bureau can follow up with those who submit incomplete questionnaires.

Second, asking people whether they’re American citizens or not is hardly an effective strategy for “finding out how many illegal aliens are in the United States.” I don’t want to alarm Bachmann and Beck, but I have a hunch someone who’s in the country illegally might not answer the question truthfully.

Third, the reasons people are asked some seemingly personal questions is that it’s relevant information, tied to government policy. As the Census Bureau tried to explain to Bachmann, “[The materials] would include questions such as income, education levels, how long it take you to get to work. All of these things are actually tied to federal programs, laws or judicial rulings that say we must collect data on these questions. So Congress approves these questions so they can now administer some of the programs and laws that they’ve passed.”

And finally, did you notice that Bachmann just threw in a random reference to “mental stability”? It seemed a little out of the blue, and given the circumstances, rather ironic.

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

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.