PAWLENTY: ANYTHING YOU CAN DO, I CAN DO DUMBER…. President Obama’s decision to scuttle Bush’s European missile-defense plan made a lot of sense. Indeed, the decision, which enjoyed the unanimous support of the Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs, was one of the strongest and smartest national security moves the White House has made of late.

What’s been interesting to watch, though, are the president’s likely 2012 challengers, all of whom have a child-like understanding of international affairs, scramble to attack a decision they don’t fully comprehend. The goal, apparently, is to not only attack the administration, but to be even more caustic than the others attacking the administration.

Mitt Romney, for example, called it a “dangerous and alarming decision,” which is “wrong in every way.” Rick Santorum, unimpressed by Romney’s belligerence, tried to one-up the former governor, accusing the White House of trying to “appease” Russia and “turning our backs on our friends.”

Not to be outdone, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who recently abandoned the pretense of sanity, decided to go even further than his likely competitors.

[Pawlenty] will raise the specter of appeasement in regards President Barack Obama’s decision earlier this week to abandon a missile defense system in Europe, according to excerpts of remarks he will deliver at tonight’s Value Voters Summit obtained by the Fix.

“The lessons of history are clear: Appeasement and weakness did not stop the Nazis, did not stop the Soviets, and did not stop the terrorists before 9/11,” Pawlenty plans to say. “We must stand strong with allies like Israel and eastern Europe in the face of growing challenges to our national security.”

Substantively, Pawlenty’s argument is obvious nonsense. But note that Pawlenty clearly wins the Conservative Crazy Contest because his attack managed to incorporate Nazis, communists, and 9/11.

This is bound to get even worse. The goal for these presidential aspirants is to trash the president, but it’s also to make their Republican rivals look like they’re not doing enough to trash the president. The result will be a delighted right-wing base, feasting on all the red meat, while their so-called “leaders” cheapen our discourse and drag American politics into the gutter.

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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.