THE DUMBEST STORY OF THE WEEK…. The Weekly Standard‘s Michael Goldfarb “reported” Tuesday that the White House is playing hardball with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) on health care. Citing an anonymous “Senate aide,” Goldfarb, a former blogger for the McCain/Palin campaign, said the Obama team “is now threatening to put Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn’t fall into line.”

Now, after watching this White House operate for 11 months, this certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of thing the Obama team would do. Have we seen any evidence of these kinds of strong-arm tactics this year? Goldfarb noted that Offutt “is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command,” and was placed in Nebraska for strategic, national security reasons. Obama would threaten to close it over a cloture vote? Without some credible evidence, it’s the kind of dubious story from an unreliable writer that few serious people would find credible.

In case anyone was inclined to believe the suspect claim, Nelson’s spokesperson told reporters, “The rumor is not true. This misinformation is coming from inside-the-Beltway partisans who only want to derail health care reform.” Soon after, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer added, “To be perfectly clear: these rumors are completely baseless and false.”

So, that’s it, right? Time to move on? Fat chance.

Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, and a variety of right-wing personalities quickly started spreading the rumor around. On his Fox News show yesterday, Glenn Beck not only suggested the rumor is true, but equated the non-existent threat with “treason” — three times.

But wait, it gets dumber. Much dumber.

Nebraska’s Sen. Mike Johanns and 19 other Republican senators Wednesday called for a hearing into reports that the Obama administration used the future of Offutt Air Force Base as bargaining chip in the health care debate.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., has said the rumors are completely false. The White House has called them “absurd.”

A defense analyst said Wednesday that base closures simply don’t work that way. Even Johanns himself said he doesn’t believe the rumors.

Then why on earth should the Senate Armed Forces Committee hold a hearing to explore a baseless right-wing rumor, unsupported by even the slightest evidence? Why would 20 Republican senators — half of the entire Senate GOP caucus — be so recklessly foolish? Because hyping lies may pay political dividends, and that’s all that matters.

Helping demonstrate the absurdities of conservative thinking, the GOP senators and Goldfarb are now arguing that if the uncorroborated rumor isn’t true, the White House shouldn’t mind a federal investigation into the matter. (The Senate Armed Forces Committee, apparently, should operate as a fact-checker for right-wing blogs.) Goldfarb argued yesterday that the unequivocal denials of the rumor make him more inclined to believe its accuracy.

Just think, if Republicans take back Congress, far-right bloggers will publish nonsense on a Monday, and congressional committees will spend the rest of the week investigating the nonsense. It will be the mid-90s all over again.

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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.