The Republican Governors Conference Press Guidelines promised that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin would “take approximately 20 minutes of questions” at today’s morning press conference. Instead, this press conference, attended by 150 local and national media and taped by 26 video cameras, disintegrated into a fiasco when Texas Governor Rick Perry shut it down after only five minutes and four questions.
Eight other governors assembled on the stage, all men, seemed visibly uncomfortable with the “Palin at center stage” format. When Perry stepped in front of Palin at the podium to announce it was over just as it was getting started, Palin looked irritated, and the media shouted, “You’ve got to be kidding,” “This is ridiculous,” “Come on,” and “We were promised more questions.”
Forty minutes later, at a larger gathering attended by most the seventeen governors at the Conference, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard may have given the reason why Palin was reined in: envy. Said Kristol, “This is not the Republican Governors Association. This is really the Republican Presidential Candidates Association.”
Palin, after the truncated press conference, gave a prepared twenty-minute speech in a large hall to approximately 400 members of the RGA (who gave her a long standing ovation at the outset and close) and the media. Palin recounted what it was like to go through the campaign and what lay ahead for the GOP. Some quotes of note:
— She began by joking that she filled the last two months “with a few speeches, meeting important people who change the world, like Tina Fey, and opportunities to expand my wardrobe.”
— She thanked President Bush for having discharged, over the last eight years, his most important duty of office — keeping us safe. This was met with long applause.
— “God is in control, and He decided it was not our time and not our moment.”
— “We wish President Obama well, but as the chief executives of the various states it will be our job to lead by example, to oppose any more unfunded federal mandates and the growth of the federal government. All Republican governors embrace the federalist principle that the government closest to the people is the most responsive and most responsible.”
— She took a swipe at what she called the addiction to “opium (Other People’s Money),” found in bail outs that reward bad corporate decisions.
— Finally, in the area of policy, she repeatedly noted that the Republican leadership in Washington had over the last decade betrayed the conservative principles and values of the Party, and that it is up to Republic governors, not to the failed GOP leadership in Washington, to lead the GOP back to power.
To conclude her prepared comments, she got very personal in tone. She said that, during the campaign, her “real right hand man was my husband Todd, and, in the future, I am to rely upon him more and on others less.”
She received sustained applause when she remembered all the teenaged girls who came up to her and told her they were excited she had shown “[t]here is no glass ceiling on achievement” and “[o]ne day, a woman will be President.”
Finally, Palin remembered all the special needs children and their parents who met her on the campaign trail with signs “We’re Here for Trig!” and “Trig in the White House.” She noted that on some cars in America bumper stickers say, “My kid is on the Honor Roll.” At her campaign stops, she saw signs held by extra chromosome Down Syndrome kids saying “We’re X-Tra Special,” and parents of those same kids held signs that read “My Kid’s Got More Chromosomes Than Your Kid!”
After Palin’s comments, the roundtable — including Kristol, General Tommy Franks, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence — discussed what went wrong in this election cycle and what must be done.
Sanford noted, “We must put this election, and the danger it poses, in a broad historical perspective. The ancient Greeks understood that democracy will lead to tyranny, as citizens out of greed vote themselves largesse from a country’s treasure.”
Pawlenty, by contrast, rejected the “return to our conservative roots” theme of others at this conference and said,“GOP principles must be harmonized with outreach to the new demographics of America,” “the GOP is fifteen years behind in the use of technology and the Internet,” “the GOP needs more than a political comb-over,” and “voters don’t want our Party led by a crank.” Unsure of to whom Pawlenty was referring in that last comment, there were some gasps from the crowd.
Congressman Pence took direct aim on the $700 billion bailout and any other future bail-outs, stating that Washington’s GOP leaders had walked away from the 1994 Contract with America: “We cannot tax and spend ourselves out of this mess. We must unleash our free market economy.” Pence, possibly not running for the Presidency, turned to Palin and called her “the best and most courageous candidate for the vice-presidency in my lifetime.”
Bill Kristol noted things may turn the GOP’s way more quickly than the doomsayers think, citing the quick reversal of fortune for the GOP from 1976 to 1980 and from 1992 to 1994.
“Such a turnabout can come again if Republican governors take advantage of the blessing, not the curse, that the national hegemony by the Washington GOP is over,” said Kristol. “It is up to you to seize this opening and to show, in your states, that you are the party of bold ideas, the party of reform, and the party of action. Ronald Reagan was a successful Governor who reclaimed Washington for the GOP.”