SHAMELESS…. After watching RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s new television ad on health care, The Atlantic‘s Patrick Appel wrote, “Shoot me now.” Describing Steele as having “the fake earnestness of a vacuum cleaner salesman,” Appel added, “It’s surreal witnessing how unprincipled the national GOP has become.”

“Unprincipled” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind, but this is a family blog so it’ll have to do. For those of you who can’t watch clips from your work computers, Steele tells viewers, “When you disagree with Washington, how come they act like it’s your problem? That’s what the Democrats have done with health care. They say you’re the problem.” I have no idea what any of this means.

Steele proceeds to tout “a new Seniors’ Bill of Rights,” that would prevent lawmakers from taking a series of radical steps that exists only in the twisted imaginations of Republicans. The dimwitted RNC chairman concludes, “Oh, and President Obama, it’s not too late to change your mind. Stand with us and stand with senior citizens. After all, they’ve earned it.”

Anyone who can watch the whole thing without pounding your head against a hard surface is a stronger person than I am. An ad like this is so breathtakingly stupid, and is so shameless in its cynical assumptions about the gullibility of the nation, it’s literally painful.

The strategy is straightforward enough: Steele thinks he can kill the reform the nation needs by scaring the hell out of seniors with ridiculous lies. If Steele were a sane, responsible person, he’d choose a different path. After all, just last week, Steele said — within a 24-hour timeframe — that Medicare is a) a great government program that Democrats are trying to undermine and the GOP is trying to protect; and b) a terrible program that doesn’t work and should probably be privatized. And this only came after Steele ran one of the all-time dumbest op-eds to ever run on health care policy.

A lesser man might think it’d be a good time to let someone else run with the ball for a while. But not Michael Steele. He’s not very bright, and he’s counting on you to be equally unintelligent.

In terms of substance, the Media Matters Action Network fact-checks the ad, point by point. In terms of politics, the RNC is running the “Medi-scare” ad on national cable and in Florida, which not incidentally, is home to a lot of seniors.

Steele is counting on a lot of elderly Americans to be just foolish enough to believe a weak con job. We’ll see if he’s right.

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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.