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Over the past two years, as the right has gone increasingly conspiracy-minded over Barack Obama, there always remained one slightly optimistic aspect of the whole spectacle: at least it wasn’t as bad as the Clinton years. The birth certificate thing aside, the constant stream of mini-eruptions were generally based on some tiny kernel of truth. They were crazy, but not completely made up. It wasn’t quite like the Clinton era, with its Mena airfield and its Christmas card list investigation and the pals buried in Arlington cemetery, all things that seized the conservative imagination but were literally invented out of whole cloth.

But now we seem to be entering a new era. Or revisiting an old era. Or something. Earlier this week, the Drudge/Beck/Rush axis declared that Obama’s trip to India was costing the American taxpayers $200 million per day, complete with 5-star rooms for his entire entourage and an escort of 34 navy warships. NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted:

Cannot believe reports about bogus cost of president’s trip didn’t pass smell test with so many folks. Ridiculous that it got any traction

But as Steve Benen noted, “Is it really so hard to believe that this happened? This is just how the right has operated for as long as I can remember, especially during the Clinton years, when it was common for baseless allegations, sometimes placed in obscure foreign outlets, to ricochet from activists to talk radio to partisan media to the White House briefing room to major outlets.”

The good news is that the mainstream media didn’t bite on this. That’s progress, I guess. But I wonder how they’re going to do when the wingers come up with something that isn’t quite so easy to check out? It’s not as if Chuck Todd wasn’t around during the 90s, after all, so his surprise over this isn’t a good sign.

Anyway, buckle up. If you thought the last two years were mind bending, the next two should send you scuttling straight for the electroshock machine. It’s not going to be pretty.

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