LAUGHING AT THEM, NOT WITH THEM…. Jon Stewart asked President Obama’s Republican critics the other night exactly what they would have the president do differently about national security and counter-terrorism. Over the last week or so, the answer has become clear but unsatisfying: the right wants the administration to use the word “terror” a whole lot, under the assumption that the mere repetition would help keep Americans safe.

This reached comical depths yesterday when Rep. Pete King (R) of New York — who, remember, is the ranking GOP lawmaker on the House Intelligence Committee — was asked for a “specific recommendation” that the administration could “implement right now” to improve the nation’s security. “I think one main thing would be to — just himself to use the word ‘terrorism’ more often,” King replied.

There’s obviously two angles to this. The first is that anyone over the age of five should realize that using the word “terrorism” over and over again does not actually serve a larger policy goal. And the second is that, far-right whining notwithstanding, the president and his team do use the word all the time. Rachel Maddow covered this quite effectively last night.

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She noted, for example, that Republicans are “lying in a way that can be obviously, demonstrably, embarrassingly proven by anyone who has a spare 45 seconds and the Google.”

Maddow added,”When the people in the Republican Party who have the highest profile on national security say things that are easily, proveably, flagrantly false, that’s a mistake. That makes it look like the party doesn’t know what it’s talking about a national security issues…. You guys, when you say President Obama doesn’t use the word terrorism, try to remember that when you say that, people are laughing at you.”

If it feels like, rhetorically, the entire political establishment is spinning its wheels, it’s because that’s true. For a year, the nation has confronted incredible challenges that demanded serious, credible debates. And for a year, we’ve ended up listening to — and responding to — total nonsense.

Instead of debating the stimulus package, Republicans wanted to explore a five-year spending freeze. Instead of debating health care reform, Republicans wanted to talk about death panels. Instead of debating cap-and-trade policy, Republicans wanted to talk about “Climategate.” Instead of debating national security policy, Republicans want to pretend the president doesn’t use a word he uses all the time.

Our political system has to mature quickly or our collective future is bleak.

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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.