O’DONNELL CLAIMS ACCESS TO SECRET CHINESE TAKEOVER PLAN…. When it comes to keeping up with extremist Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, one of the problems is that it becomes harder to surprise us. We’ve come to expect bizarre remarks, so more routine madness, which might be more interesting if applied to a different candidate, barely registers. Note, for example, that Bill Maher’s latest revelation barely made a ripple.

But even for a Senate candidate who’s lied repeatedly about her educational background, is suspected of campaign embezzlement, is suspected of tax fraud, rejects modern science, hates gays, has crusaded against masturbation, has talked about stopping Americans from having sex, and embraces a hysterically extreme political worldview, this is pretty extraordinary.

Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell of Delaware said in a 2006 debate that China was plotting to take over America and claimed to have classified information about the country that she couldn’t divulge.

O’Donnell’s comments came as she and two other Republican candidates debated U.S. policy on China during Delaware’s 2006 Senate primary, which O’Donnell ultimately lost.

She said China had a “carefully thought out and strategic plan to take over America” and accused one opponent of appeasement for suggesting that the two countries were economically dependent and should find a way to be allies.

“There’s much I want to say,” she said at the time. “I wish I wasn’t privy to some of the classified information that I am privy to.”

Note that this came from 2006. Some of the evidence of O’Donnell’s nuttiness comes from the 1990s, which makes it at least slightly easier for her backers to dismiss as errors of youth. But in ’06, O’Donnell was seeking a major-party nomination for the U.S. Senate, claiming to have access to “classified” information about a Chinese “strategic plan to take over America.”

At a certain point, this stops being funny and starts being sad. I’ve long assumed that O’Donnell is just a ridiculous right-wing activist who managed to win a low-turnout primary. Given her delusional claims about access to classified Chinese intelligence, and her outlandish lies about her own educational background, I’m starting to think there may be something deeply wrong with Christine O’Donnell, which really isn’t funny at all.

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.