ROVE TO GOP: IT’S A TRAP!…. Bill O’Reilly asked Karl Rove last night if Donald Trump might boost his political career by being an unrestrained birther. After all, O’Reilly said, Trump’s support for the ridiculous conspiracy theory is getting him “a hell of a lot of attention” and helps him curry favor with “the right-wing base of the Republican Party.”

Rove didn’t see it that way.

“Well, A, first of all, I disagree with your assumption. The right- wing base of the Republican Party — I’m part of that right-wing base — is not in love with the issue of birthers. I mean, there is an element inside the Republican Party and outside the Republican Party that’s fallen in love with this. But the vast majority of Republicans and the vast majority of Americans accept that he’s a U.S. citizen and capable of being president. And this is a distraction. […]

“This is a mistake. It will marginalize [Trump]. And he’s falling for Barack Obama’s trap. Barack Obama wants Republicans to fall into this trap, because he knows it discredits us with the vast majority of American people when they do.”

If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it from Rove before. About six weeks ago, he pushed the same line, insisting that this far-right nonsense is “the trap of the White House.”

Even by Rove standards, this is just odd. He really seems to believe that an unhinged, right-wing conspiracy theory, debunked several years ago and rejected by sane people everywhere, is an elaborate “trap” set by nefarious White House officials, including the president.

In some ways this is nearly as twisted as the nonsensical theory itself. Indeed, Rove seems to envision a scheme with layers — the White House has conspired to convince Republicans to see a conspiracy that doesn’t exist. It looks like right-wing activists have been pushing this garbage for years, but apparently this is all part of the Obama team’s fiendish plan.

Remember, Karl Rove, who’s now shared this idea on national television more than once, is considered one of the Republican Party’s most credible, strategic minds.

Postscript: Speaking of Rove, his new Wall Street Journal op-ed said the president came out in support of Bush’s “freedom agenda,” which is at odds with a speech Obama delivered in 2005. As it turns out, Rove’s lying about this week’s speech and the 2005 speech.

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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.