KRISTOL SLIPS FURTHER FROM REALITY…. At this point, most informed political observers have come to a certain realization about those who make the “death panel” argument: they’re fools, charlatans, or both. Even news outlets that prefer to present coverage in a he-said/she-said fashion seem to realize that the argument is without merit. (They’ll usually say something like, “Every independent fact-check of this claim says it’s false.”)

And yet, here we have the new column from the Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol, who argues this week that Republicans and conservatives have acted in an exemplary fashion throughout the health care debate. Seriously.

Conservative policy wonks helped to explode the false budgetary and health-improvement claims made on behalf of Obamacare. Conservative polemicists pointed out how Obamacare — conceived in the spirit of budget chief Peter we-spend-too-much-as-a-nation-on-health-care Orszag and adviser Ezekiel we-need-to-stop-wasting-money-on-extending-low-quality-lives Emanuel — means, in effect, death panels.

So good for them. And it’s a sign of Obama’s desperation that he seems unwilling to debate the substance of his own health care proposal….

Now, anyone familiar with Kristol’s work shouldn’t be surprised with this cheap and petty nonsense. He’s a partisan hack; it’s his job. He’s paid handsomely to make arguments like these. Kristol has been making the case against health care reform for quite some time — it was Kristol who urged GOP lawmakers to kill Clinton’s effort, because it was more important to help his party than the country — and his arguments have a habit of being “the opposite of true.”

It’s tempting to think, though, that his decision to push “death panel” stupidity might jeopardize his popularity with the political establishment, which knows full well that this is a garbage argument. But there are no consequences, which is one of the reasons Kristol lies with impunity. He remains the charming right-wing nut who wears nice suits and speaks in sober tones, and is no doubt a delightful companion at cocktail parties.

Does Kristol actually believe his own drivel? I’m inclined to think so, but as Jon Chait explained a couple of years ago, it may not matter. “Kristol’s good standing in the Washington establishment depends on the wink-and-nod awareness that he’s too smart to believe his own agitprop. Perhaps so. But, in the end, a fake thug is not much better than the real thing.”

And so we’re left with Kristol columns like this one, which argues, “The Republican party and the conservative movement are behaving in a way that can make Republicans and conservatives proud.”

One wonders what the weather is like in Kristol Land.

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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.