It would appear that the most important contribution made by Sarah Palin since she first assumed a public presence as John McCain’s running mate is that she has legitimized the role of demagoguery in political processes. Initially, I had assumed that Newt Gingrich would be the primary beneficiary of this change in the nature of the playing field, but that was before Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican nomination in the next Presidential Election. Wherever Palin set the bar with her own flamboyance, it has not taken Perry long to raise it. Consider this account which appeared on the BBC News Web site about half an hour ago:
In his first three days as a presidential contender, he has already antagonised Democrats by implying that the US military does not respect Mr Obama as commander-in-chief.
On a campaign stop in the US state of Iowa on Tuesday, Mr Perry said: "If this guy [Ben Bernanke] prints more money between now and the election, I don't know what y'all will do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas.
"Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous, treasonous in my opinion."
This is pretty scary stuff. Does Barack Obama really think that such challenges can be met by appealing to reason? Perry knows the power of irrational emotion, and he is going to apply that knowledge for all it is worth. Will Obama be able to come up with the right way to confront this viciousness, or will he let the mad dog run wild under the assumption that it will eventually tire itself into slumber?