SHADEGG’S ‘SOVIET-STYLE’ STUPIDITY…. Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) has never been the sharpest tool in the shed, but his tirade on the House floor this week on health care policy was cringe-worthy. Members of Congress rarely flaunt stupidity like this; I almost felt sorry for the guy.

“[W]hat we’re really getting here is we’re not just getting single-payer care. We’re getting full on Russian gulag, Soviet-style gulag health care,” Shadegg said. He added, “It appeared in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal. You can Google it. You can pick up the phone and call Kim Strassel. You can ask her about Soviet-style gulag health care in America, where powerful politicians protect their constituents.”

Lee Fang, for those who’ve forgotten, explained, “The Soviet gulags were a network of prisons and forced labor camps that held as many as 20 million people during Stalin’s reign of terror. It is estimated 1.5 million died in the camps.”

What does this have to do with the health care system in the United States? Why would systemic improvements relate to Soviet-style gulags in any way? Shadegg didn’t say. I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know what a “gulag” even is. The poor man just isn’t bright.

Kevin Drum added that this blistering nonsense highlights the qualitative difference with right-wing derangement: “Sure, there were lefty bloggers who went over the top about Amerika and how the NSA was bringing 1984 to life and so forth, but for the most part you didn’t have members of Congress taking to the House floor and joining in. They largely managed to keep a slightly more even keel. But on the Republican side, after a mere few months of Obama, this kind of stuff has become routine. They’ve joined the Caps Lock crowd feet first.”

Quite right. I’d add just one thing — in 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration’s torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of “Soviets in their gulags.” At the time, the media and Republicans were apoplectic about Durbin’s remarks, sparking a week-long frenzy. Several conservatives called on the Senate to censure Durbin, and Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin’s quote was evidence that liberals are traitors. Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

In other words, when Durbin referenced Soviet-style gulags in a way that at least made sense, there was a firestorm of criticism, including multiple condemnations from the White House and extensive media coverage. Where’s the comparable treatment of Shadegg?

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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.