THE BLURRED LINES…. If you missed it, the National Review‘s Michael Ledeen had a rather remarkable item the other day, which speaks to a larger truth.

Is Obama Naive? I don’t think so. I think that he rather likes tyrants and dislikes America. I think he’d like to be more powerful, I think he is trying to get control over as much of our lives as he can, so that he can put an end to the annoying tumult of our public life. As when he said (about health care) to the Congress, “Okay, you’ve talked enough, now it’s time to do the right thing (my thing).” And he’s trying to end American power in the outside world. He’s saying “I’m going to stop us, before we kill again.”

There is nothing unusual about elitist hatred of freedom. Back in the 18th century, when book publishing really got going, British authors were infuriated that they had to submit to the judgment of a marketplace. They didn’t want to be judged by people who were obviously inferior to them, and there was a great rage among the intelligentsia, including some very famous men. And in modern times, we can all name famous intellectuals who fawned all over Mussolini, Stalin, Fidel, and even Hitler.

American politics are very fractious, and always have been. Leaders are constantly frustrated, and some of them come to yearn for an end to our freedom. They think they know best, they just want to tell us what to do and have us shut up and do it. I think Obama is one of them.

National Review‘s Andy McCarthy enthusiastically endorsed the argument, noting the president’s “personal terrorist pals like Bill Ayers.”

I’d like to think it goes without saying, but for the record, Ledeen’s (and McCarthy’s) observation is strikingly dumb. It’s almost a parody of unhinged conservative apoplexy — the president “likes tyrants,” “dislikes America,” “hates freedom,” and wants to be an authoritarian tyrant. This is Glenn Beck-like derangement under the banner of National Review.

And that was the angle that stood out for me reading Ledeen’s nonsense. To be sure, National Review‘s record of conservatism has at times been humiliating — it’s staunch opposition to civil rights, for example — but in time, the magazine tried to position itself as a source of serious political commentary.

Now it’s paying Michael Ledeen and Andy McCarthy.

The larger trend is hard to miss. Over the last couple of decades, the line between the GOP establishment/leadership and the unhinged GOP base has become blurred. At the same time, the line between the analysis offered by “serious” and “respectable” conservative voices and the unbalanced tirades put forward by the nutty conservative fringe has all but disappeared.

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.