Nobody wants to play a useful idiot (à la American liberals co-opted by communists during the Cold War). In this regard, conservatives would do well to learn from recent mistakes: in this case, the Maria Butina (accused Russian agent) drama and Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest comedic shtick. Both situations demonstrate how prominent conservative political figures are vulnerable to being duped.

If you haven’t heard of these overlapping stories, Butina is a 29-year-old pro-gun Russian national who was recently arrested for penetrating the National Rifle Association allegedly on Russia’s behalf. It’s unclear just what she was up to, but there have been allegations that Russia funneled money through the NRA. Moreover, Butina hosted several leading NRA executives at “friendship and dialogue” dinners, with the goal ostensibly being to report back to Russia.

Cohen also infiltrated the conservative movement, but for slightly less sinister motives. Instead of trying to propagandize, he wanted to mock them and get a laugh at their expense for his new Showtime series, Who Is America?

Boy, did he. In one interview, Cohen, posing as an Israeli colonel and terrorism expert, gets former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh to advocate arming little kids.