Sen. Mitch McConnell Wants to Deny Contraception (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Pull the cord on your parachutes, people; we’re in intellectual free fall this week.

The week ended at CPAC when Mitt Romney earned the award for most preposterous political whopper by labeling himself “severely conservative.” People who use teh Google quickly pointed out he spent  years in Massachusetts proclaiming he was a moderate with progressive views.   Of course, no one cares what Mitt says anymore, but that whopper was only one of many severely conservative — i.e., absurd — statements from the rest of the GOP and those who use them.

The Catholic Bishops have decided that since they can’t force religiously affiliated institutions to deny contraception coverage to women, they want Congress to give all employers the power to deny contraception to all women as long as they claim they’re doing God’s will.  Establishment of religion, anyone?

Roy Blunt and Mitch McConnel have taken the severely authoritarian view that what women need is a Congressional statute keeping them in their place, and at least make it less likely they’ll use contraception.  So they’re promising to enact a law stating that any employer can provide insurance fails to offer women employees any medical services, not just contraception, if the employer claims it violates his religious scruples, like those of the Church of Scientology.

In the severely conservative world, government can do just about anything in the name of religion, or whatever their religious leaders insist.   Rick Santorum is the Catholic Bishop’s man, and for him that means it would be okay to continue our Christian Crusades into the “holy land,” because, uh, that’s what it means to be an American. (h/t DeLong/TPM)

And this morning, “liberal Catholic” E.J. Dionne has his own severely challenged moment when he argues that when the original contraception rule didn’t treat religious affiliated hospitals and charities the same way as the church’s authoritarian hierarchy, it meant people didn’t appreciate all the charity work they did.  Huh?

For liberals who sided with the church in this controversy, the most vexing problem with the original exemption on contraception is that it defined “religious” so narrowly that the reality that these organizations go out of their way to serve non-Catholics was held against them. Their Gospel-inspired work was defined as non-religious.

Gibberish.  No one held anything against charitable institutions.  No one claimed that good works are not often inspired by religious teachings.

The usually severely sensible Dionne still doesn’t get it.  The rule is about health care and the coverage of medical services by insurance companies.  It hasn’t anything to do with employers’ religious beliefs or what motivates them to operate hospitals.

Dionne hated the original rule, but he’s fine with the “accommodation,” but how does he explain the difference?  How does he think the new rule will work? Both rules are meant to ensure that employees are offered health insurance that covers contraception with no co-payment, and leaves to the employee the decision whether to use those services.  That’s free choice.  In both rules, the insurer will provide insurance coverage for contraception.  In both rules, the insurers will take into account the likelihood employees will use the services and account for that fact in projecting the costs and setting the premiums (likely lower because women will use the services) of the coverage.  Nothing changed except the new rule gets the phony issue of the employer’ religious beliefs out of the decision that always belonged to the employee.  That’s it.   This has nothing to do with charitable work or religious beliefs.

More from Paul Krugman, Severe Conservative Syndrone

How did American conservatism end up so detached from, indeed at odds with, facts and rationality? For it was not always thus. After all, that health reform Mr. Romney wants us to forget followed a blueprint originally laid out at the Heritage Foundation!

My short answer is that the long-running con game of economic conservatives and the wealthy supporters they serve finally went bad. For decades the G.O.P. has won elections by appealing to social and racial divisions, only to turn after each victory to deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy — a process that reached its epitome when George W. Bush won re-election by posing as America’s defender against gay married terrorists, then announced that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security.

Over time, however, this strategy created a base that really believed in all the hokum — and now the party elite has lost control.

Here endeth the lesson. . . . Except more from Atrios.