ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS…. Several months ago, after the House had already passed the Senate version of the health care reform bill, it was time for lawmakers to consider the reconciliation package. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), less interested in serious policy work and more interested in playing childish games, decided to try to bury the reconciliation measure in a flood of ridiculous amendments.

As far as Coburn was concerned, if his carefully-crafted amendments were approved, they could kill health care reform. If they were rejected, they could be used by odious candidates to deceive voters. So the right-wing Oklahoman pushed a measure, for example, to ban insurance coverage of erectile dysfunction drugs for convicted sex offenders. The Senate wisely dismissed the stunt and moved on.

But it was easy to think at the time, “Just watch. Some jackass is going to run an attack ad in the fall telling voters Senator So-and-so supported giving Viagra to child molesters.”

Seven months later, extremist Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) has this new attack ad going after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D), which among other things, tells Nevadans:

“Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?”

Substantively, the ad is blisteringly stupid. It’s the kind of ad that, in just 30 seconds, takes the entire American electoral process down a notch. The spot isn’t true; it’s not fair; and it’s treating voters as if they were morons.

I mean, really. Are families in Nevada seriously supposed to believe that Harry Reid deliberately chose to use tax dollars to give erectile dysfunction drugs to sex offenders? Why on earth would anyone do that? In what universe could this possibly make sense? And if it were true, wouldn’t we have heard something about it before now?

But politically, Republicans have come to believe this is the way one wins elections. And when it works — Angle is leading in a few new polls, by the way — it sends a signal to lawmakers like Coburn to keep playing childish games with the policymaking process, and to GOP candidates everywhere that sleaze like this will be rewarded by voters.

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.