The Grand Ole Opry may have been next door but Sarah Palin preached to the choir on Saturday at the National Tea Party Convention and brought down the house. The two-day event, held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel, had been a relatively placid affair – Tea Partiers learned how to social network and reach out to young conservatives – until Palin’s speech.
Palin received numerous standing ovations and underlined her support of the movement– this is the first of at least three Tea Party events she’ll be attending, including a March rally against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada and a one-year Tea Party anniversary event in April – by hitting a number of Tea Party slogans. ““So how’s that ‘hope’ and ‘change’ working out for you?” read a t-shirt for sale in the lobby. “Now a year later, I gotta ask their supporters: how’s that hope-y and change-y thing workin’ out for ya?” Palin asked to roars of approval from the 1,100-person crowd – 600 convention goers who paid $549 for the access to the full schedule, plus another 500 who paid $349 for the lobster & steak dinner.
Palin didn’t miss an opportunity to round on President Obama for what she called his failures on the national security and economic fronts. She slammed Obama for his handling of the underwear bomber. “The events surround the Christmas day plot reflect the kind of thinking that led to 9/11,” she said, adding that the Clinton Administration hadn’t taken the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole seriously enough. “That threat was treated like an international crime spree, not an act of war… To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law.”
On the economy, Palin slammed Obama for not doing enough to deal with the fiscal crisis while, at the same time, spending far too much. “Washington has replaced private irresponsibility with public irresponsibility,” she said. “They’ve bailed out banks, mortgage companies, financial institutions, auto makers. And, if they have their way, health care and student loans… Where’re the consequences of getting us into the worse situation since the great depression?”
“The list of broken promises is long,” Palin continued. “It’s easy to understand why Americans are shaking their heads when Washington has broken their trust with the American people. We’re drowning in national debt and many of us have had enough,” she said to a standing ovation.
The speech was closely watched for signs of Palin’s political future. In many ways the convention was a coming out with the national media both for the movement and for Palin — this was the first televised, U.S. public speech she’s given since resigning as governor. And there has been much speculation that the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee might run for president in 2012. Palin submitted to a brief question and answer session with conference organizer Judson Phillips before leaving just over 90 minutes after she arrived. One of the questions particularly delighted the audience. “I can think of two words that scare liberals: President Palin,” Phillips said, inciting a standing ovation and chants of “Run, Sarah run.” “What is the Palin plan?”
Palin said she’d like first to tackle energy issues – expanding oil and gas drilling across the U.S. and offshore, a signature issue of hers both as governor and vice presidential nominee. She also said she’d like to lay out a “real” green jobs plan, as opposed to the one proposed by Obama. Secondly, she pledged deep spending cuts and promised to tackle the deficit. And third, she said she’d make no illusions of phony bipartisanship. “I would not be making the promises of bipartisanship if the promises can’t be fulfilled,” she said. “Don’t fake it, don’t pretend that you want to work with the other party on [health care] because distrust is building and that makes us distrust all the decisions coming out of Washington and it makes us a less secure nation,” she said to yet another standing ovation.