I’ve generally operated under the assumption that we’re living in an age where lies, even the most obvious and outrageous of them, need to be challenged or they become tomorrow’s “facts.” So I’m glad TNR’s Danny Vinik went to the Department of Homeland Security and asked about Rep. Duncan Hunter’s claim that Islamic State operatives have been found crossing the U.S.-Mexican border. Hunter says he was told that by unnamed border control agents. DHS says it’s “categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground.” That’s bureaucratese for “Hunter either made this stuff up or relied on uninformed Border Patrol gossip.”

But sometimes this stuff seems to just sponteneously spring up because it’s politically convenient. Greg Sargent went to some trouble to track down the sources for Tom Cotton’s rather audacious claim that IS is working with Mexican drug cartels to pose an imminent threat to Arkansas (yes, Arkansas), and found it was all sort of a circular right-wing-bloggers-to-Fox-News-to-Republican-pols collective delusion. But every time it’s repeated there’s a new “source.”

Now you can say this is just politics as usual. But let’s remember Tom Cotton is the subject of massive national GOP adulatory hype. If he wins in November, he’ll immediately be the subject of presidential speculation, if not for 2016 then soon down the road. As Charlie Pierce says, we have an obligation to “nip the career of young Tom Cotton in the bud before he does real damage to the country.” He’s already doing real damage to the truth when it comes to understanding actual terrorist threats.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.