THEY REALLY THINK YOU’RE STUPID…. The right’s “death panel” attack was thoroughly and completely debunked. It didn’t matter — lots of Americans believed the lie anyway. It has, however, started to lose some of its salience, which means it’s time for the new health care reform lie.

We talked over the weekend about the “death books” nonsense. The right-wing claim is that the Department of Veterans Affairs is pushing an end-of-life planning document that encourages vets to pursue death. The claim is completely ridiculous.

But it doesn’t matter. The disgusting attack worked its way from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal to CNN. Right-wing hacks are pushing this aggressively, and this morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said, “If you want an example of bad public policy, just look at the situation with our veterans when you have a manual out there telling our veterans stuff like ‘are you really of value to your community?’ You know, encouraging them to commit suicide. I mean, this is crazy coming from the government.”

“Crazy” is the operative word here.

We’re all accustomed to a certain baseline of dishonesty among opponents of health care reform, but this truly vile. These clowns lost their dignity quite a while ago, but this “death book” stupidity is beneath contempt.

For what it’s worth, Olbermann broke down the smear last night, and the Obama administration published a detailed rebuttal to the lurid claim this morning.

Whether the pushback is sufficient remains to be seen. For the right, it’s the kitchen-sink strategy — come up with as many lies as possible, and throw them all at health care reform. When one piece of garbage starts to lose its punch, throw another. Even if it’s promptly debunked, plenty of gullible suckers will believe it, and news outlets won’t dare say, “Right-wing opponents of reform lie a lot.” Indeed, there are no adverse consequences for conservative con artistss at all.

Our political discourse is just so ridiculous, it’s sometimes surprising the political system functions at all.

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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.