While flipping through satellite radio channels today, I became convinced that I had discovered proof of America’s growing stupidity. Every talk channel I flipped through – Sirus-XM’s “The Virus,” NPR, CNN, and others – were breathlessly covering one of three topics: the soon-to-open “Twilight” sequel, the confusion over when to start getting mammograms, and Sarah Palin’s recently-released memoir, “Going Rogue.”

The situation is the same all over the Internet, at least as far as Sarah From Alaska is concerned. Wonkette has basically just run with the “PalinBlog” (RogueBlog? SarahBlog?) theme already established over at NRO, Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish has officially been overwhelmed, and the whole spectrum of punditry has basically had nothing else on its collective mind for the past two weeks or so.

It’s not just the blogs, either – Newsweek ran a front-page story on her (complete with leggy cover shot) last week, National Review’s Rich Lowry continues to slavishly adore her in print and online, and she’s made a tour of all the major talk shows, including Barbara Walters and… (even!)… Oprah.

Why not? It’s a fun story with colorful characters and conflict (the story about Palin’s book, I mean; not Palin’s book itself). I’m tempted to pick it up, but have decided not to for at least two reasons: one, I don’t want to encourage this kind of behavior and two, I have no idea where I left my last box of crayons.

This would be just another laughably stupid “big story” (Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, any attractive co-ed gone missing in Aruba, etc.) if it weren’t for the insidious little clues Palin’s been leaving behind on what can only be properly understood as a quixotic 2012 campaign trail. Take, for instance, this clip from her interview on Barbara Walters, where Walters asks the erstwhile governor about her ideas on Israel’s policy of expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank:

Barbara Walters: Governor, let’s talk about some issues. The Middle East. The Obama administration does not want Israel to build any more settlements on what they consider “Palestinian territory.” What is your view on this?

Sarah Palin: I disagree with the Obama administration on that. I believe that, um, the Jewish, uh, settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And, um, I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell, um, Israel that, that, uh, the Jewish settlements cannot expand.

Barbara Walters: Even if it’s Palestinian areas?

Sarah Palin: I believe that the Jewish settlement should be allowed to expand. (via The Weekly Standard)

Wait, what? Days and … months ahead? Is something going on right now that would spark a sudden rush of Jewish migration/return to Israel?

Oh wait, I almost forgot. Sarah’s crazy, and part of that craziness is her professed belief that the end of the world is nigh. According to her particular form of eschatology, in order for that end to arrive, Jews must all return to Israel, and if they’re all headin’ back there, well, by golly, they’re going to need places to stay (until they’re wiped out by the coming Apocalypse, of course).

It’s troubling enough that this translates into a real-world “policy position” (although, this could simply be knee-jerk reactionism to Barack Obama’s position on the subject) that is founded on a weird “manifest destiny” concept of Palestine and completely ignores the current residents of the areas in question. Creepier still is the fact that Palin, this belief about the end times in hand, is actively campaigning on positions she believes will hasten that end to arrive. What else could this imply, policy-wise, particularly when it comes to nuclear proliferation and oil-dependence?

It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if she’s really kidding when she says stuff like this:

WASHINGTON — Palin-Beck 2012?

Sarah Palin has suggested Fox News firebrand Glenn Beck could be someone she’d consider as a running mate if she makes a bid for the White House in two years.

“I can envision a couple of different combinations, if ever I were to be in a position to really even seriously consider running for anything in the future, and I’m not there yet,” Palin told the conservative news agency Newsmax as she promoted her memoir, “Going Rogue: An American Life.”

“But Glenn Beck I have great respect for. He’s a hoot. He gets his message across in such a clever way. And he’s so bold – I have to respect that. He calls it like he sees it, and he’s very, very, very effective.”

That’s a thought that should, actually, have conservatives quaking in their boots. There are plenty of “tea partiers” (we’re no longer allowed to use the term they coined for themselves) in this country who are ill-informed and fed up enough to really seem to fantasize about this very situation, but as the voters in New York’s 23rd Congressional District demonstrated earlier this month, you can only sell crazy to so many people.

What frightens me is the fact that this number is growing, or at the very least is getting more vocal, and Republican leadership has yet to step up to the plate and tell it to shut the hell up.

In the near-term, however, I’m not terribly concerned about the electoral prospects (New Jersey and Virginia be damned; gubernatorial elections are generally understood to be referenda on local issues), since so far, lunatics have a tendency of losing badly. However, what Sarah Palin is doing is giving voice and validation to the political faction that up until now has been the lonely uncle at the family reunion who is drunk by noon and normally ignored and pitied from a safe distance.

So when I hear about hand-wringing over Kalid Sheik Mohammed’s trial in New York and slavering over the star of the new “Twilight” movie on the radio as bookends to non-stop coverage of Sarah Palin, I start to think that maybe it’s not just one drunk uncle. It might be an entire, alcoholic side of the family.