DEFINE ‘ESSENTIAL’…. Time‘s Mark Halperin had an item near the top of the page this afternoon about Rush Limbaugh’s latest paranoid fantasy regarding President Obama. Halperin seemed to think it was important, and even went to the trouble of transcribing Limbaugh’s latest attack.

So, I clicked to see what the fuss was about. In a nutshell, Limbaugh thinks Obama might try to “serve beyond 2016.”

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in the next number of years there is a move on the 22nd Amendment, which term limits the President of the United States. He may not do it that way, he may not openly try to change the Constitution. But there might be this movement in the country from his cult-like followers to support the notion that a democratically-elected leader who is loved and adored has carte blanc once elected. Just serve as long as he wants because the people demand it, because the people want it, because the people love it. […]

“No one else can lead the nation, they will say. And they won’t care a whit about the legalities that might be trampled. Half of the legalities if they don’t even know about them because they haven’t been properly educated. I think this situation in Honduras is very instructive. Anybody who thinks that [Obama] intends to just constitutionally go away in 2016 is nuts … These are people who seek power for reasons other than to serve. They seek to rule.”

I see. Rush Limbaugh, a mere five months into President Obama’s term, is convinced not only that Obama will win a second term, but also that the president will position himself as some kind of dictator seven years from now. He doesn’t point to anything substantive to bolster this nonsense — it’s Limbaugh, after all — but he thinks those who disagree with him are “nuts.” How amusing.

That, however, isn’t the interesting part. After all, Limbaugh, a drug-addled blowhard, says all kinds of ridiculous things on the air every day. That’s his job. It’s what he’s paid (handsomely) to do.

No, what caught my eye is the fact that Time‘s political analyst described Limbaugh’s harangue as “essential reading.” In fact, Halperin put the words “essential reading” in all caps, bolded, and in a bright-red font.

Here’s hoping Halperin considers this “essential reading” because Limbaugh’s tirade is a good example of the kind of pathological lunacy that passes for conservative criticism of U.S. leaders these days, not because he thinks Limbaugh’s tirade has merit.

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.