MAYBE IT WAS A RHETORICAL QUESTION…. Jon Chait has a good item this morning noting the ways in which conservatives attack health care reform for incoherent and contradictory reasons, but manage to feel good about themselves anyway.

Of particular interest was a reference to a recent column from the Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes, who said reform plans are at odds with “the laws of addition and subtraction.”

Give President Obama credit for persistence. And stubbornness. And lack of imagination. He declared again last week that his health care plan “will slow the growth of health care costs for our families and our businesses and our government.” And this historic achievement will be accompanied by a dazzling array of new medical benefits that everyone will receive — guaranteed by law…. Does he think we’re stupid?

Chait tried to explain the policy to Barnes.

I don’t mean to go all intellectual elite here, but the concept of expanded coverage and slower cost growth does not, in fact, violate the laws of addition and subtraction. Every other advanced country provides universal coverage, with equivalent or often better performance, at dramatically less cost. Earlier this year, a respected study by the Brookings Institution outlined proposals to expand coverage while reducing cost growth. One of the co-authors of that study, Mark McClellan, who served in the Bush administration, has praised a draft of a Senate Finance Committee bill for fulfilling the report’s goals.

Does President Obama think Barnes is “stupid”? I doubt it. Should he think Barnes is stupid? Well, let’s just say the Weekly Standard editor’s intellect shines through nicely in his columns.

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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.