QUOTE OF THE DAY…. After hearing Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) insist that health care reform would offer no benefits until 2014 — a claim that’s demonstrably false — Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) took to the floor with a charitable interpretation.

“I stand here day after day after day and hear my colleagues, my good friends from the other side, say things that are not based on fact. […]

“Senator Thune did say that none of the benefits started next year. He just, I guess, hasn’t read the bill…. I do find that many of my colleagues who I’m very friendly with, haven’t read the bill and are not very familiar with it.”

Right. It’s not that opponents of health care reform are lying shamelessly, in the hopes of deceiving anyone within earshot, it’s that they’re not particularly “familiar” with the legislation. Got it.

Likewise, over the weekend, when Thune told CNN’s audience that the Congressional Budget Office found that the Democratic reform plan would “bend the cost curve up” — a claim that’s the exact opposite of reality — it’s not that Thune is some kind of brazen liar, it’s that he went on national television to talk about policy details he knows nothing about.

I’m reminded of Ruth Marcus’ reaction to the House debate about a month ago, when she marveled at the “appalling amount of misinformation being peddled” by Republicans.

I don’t mean the usual hyperbole about “a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system,” as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses….

I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill…. You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?

Senate Republicans, by some measures, have been even more pathological.

Unless, that is, we accept Franken’s gentle chiding at face value. Congressional Republicans, the argument goes, aren’t the hopelessly dishonest hacks they’re made out to be; they’re just hopelessly confused, attacking a policy they don’t understand with talking points they haven’t thought through.

That’s one way of looking at it.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.