She was relaxed, but spunky. She was real. She was armed with stats. She was unapologetic about her convictions. She was tough on President Obama’s agenda. She was fed up with the status quo. She was “sick and tired of the games that are being played in Washington, D.C., because we’re talking about our money, we’re talking about our kids’ future, we’re talking about our republic and the solvency of our republic.” She was willing to laugh at herself. She was confident about her experience.
And yes—she was wearing leopard heels.
The woman? Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The event? The Long Island Association’s 2011 Annual Meeting and Luncheon, during which Palin replied extemporaneously to a series of questions from LIA CEO and President, Kevin S. Law. Topics included gun control, energy independence, health care, entitlements, Obama’s budget, the debt ceiling, the Tea Party, protests in Egypt, the 2012 presidential election, and more.
Palin critiqued the press for “letting him [President Obama] get away with saying his new spending plan and his projections, his proposal out 10 years, doesn’t add to the national debt.” She added, “And you know why I do that, because I do have great regard for this cornerstone of our democracy, this freedom of press. I have a son who fights for freedom of the press in the military. And I have great respect for those who truly want to help provide truthful, factual information to the public so that we know how to hold our politicians accountable.”
She was direct about the need for entitlement reform, about how “New enrollees in our government entitlement programs, they need to be told it’s not going to be the same as it had been in years past.” She was equally committed to the belief that “A pension is a promise … and those retirees who are now reliant upon what it was that they invested in the system over the years—I think of my dad as a retired school teacher—you don’t take that away from them.”
As to raising the debt ceiling, Palin asserted, “To me, all that’s going to do is create this allowance for more big spenders to get in there and say, ‘More debt ceiling? Okay, we’re going to keep spending then, up to that ceiling.’ ” She added that “tone-deaf politicians—they’re going to be fired and they’re going to be replaced in the next election cycle if they don’t listen this time.”
Palin paid tribute to the Tea Party, stating, “This rising up of the Tea Party movement has been refreshing. It’s been inspiring. Best thing about it? It’s forced both parties to rethink the way that they do business. And that’s a good thing for both machines. Both machines need some shaking up.”
She affirmed the need for “some reform in our existing health care system, but it needs to be market-oriented and patient-centered.” With respect to ObamaCare, she stated, “We wanted practical reforms, and yet that isn’t where the government took us … the whole ObamaCare process left people so disillusioned and disenchanted, and really disenfranchised from their government.”
Palin referred to Alaska as the “Fort Knox of America” when it comes to energy supply, adding, “Those foreign regimes can use energy as a weapon against us. Potential energy crisis in our future and the national debt—these are the things that will drive America to her knees if we don’t turn things around and get back on the right track.”
She referred to a birthday gift received this month from her mom, a Reader’s Digest from February 1964 that she said contains an article “about the fallacy of presenting a budget without cutting government spending, the fallacy as it leads to deficit spending, and what deficits do to a country.”
She emphasized her time reining in spending as governor and the tax cuts she implemented as mayor “in order to send that message to say, business, we want you in town. We want you to come here. We don’t want to outsource opportunities.” Palin added, “And the manifestation of the results there ended up in our area being the fastest-growing area of the state.”
With respect to Egypt, she spoke about the right of democracy-loving individuals to God-given liberties, but also warned of the potential danger of the Muslim Brotherhood “being invited to the table to discuss how the reform in that country should take place: And if they are radical enough to have already spoken against liberties and freedoms, then you have to wonder—is this a good deal for Egypt and for America’s interests, certainly for our ally Israel over there and their security and their safety, which certainly must be forefront on our list of concerns?”
And yes—she made a joke that included the mention of Michelle Obama. But contrary to what was put forth in many media reports, she wasn’t mocking the first lady. In the context of speaking about a rise in gasoline, crude oil, and commodity prices, Palin joked, “Ask any mom who’s out there buying cases of diapers, still—all these years later—cases of diapers and a can of formula, milk for the baby. It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you better breast-feed your babies, because I look at it and go, yeah, you better, ’cause the price of milk is so high right now. Regardless of the political, you know, do it for economic reasons.”
The audience got the joke. Many in the media didn’t. She added, “And may that not be the takeaway, please, of this thing.” (Needless to say, by the time I entered my rental car to head home, several online stories had already zeroed in like hawks on her comment and were engaged in distortions.)
Palin’s gun-control bottom line? “The bad guys aren’t going to follow the laws that are on the books today. They’re not going to follow any new laws that are put on the books, either. … The bad guy is going to do what he’s hell-bent on doing, and they need to be held responsible for those criminal, evil acts.”
I found Palin’s commentary on 2012 particularly interesting. She asserted that those considering a run for the presidency “need to start making up their minds here pretty soon” and that “I think what people are desiring to see is again no more status quo, not necessarily just seeing more players that are in these spokes in the political machines, who are sort of preordained, and they get to be the ones to be nominated and go forth, but people are ready for our governmental establishment to kind of be shaken up and real people with practical solutions who have good experience because they have a track record.”
Palin’s trademark sense of humor was woven throughout her commentary, including when she said, “Last night, I’m in my hotel room, and I’ve got my entourage with me—that would be Bristol” and her sentiments on who she envisions at the top of the 2012 GOP ticket: “Nobody is more qualified really in multitasking and doing all the things that you need to do as President than a woman, than a mom. … Adding that all up, what I would look for was somebody who, okay, would start off as being you know, a woman, a mom, somebody who’s administered locally, state, interstate with energy issues, so maybe a mayor, a governor, an oil commissioner, maybe somebody who’s already run for something, vice pr— … I don’t know, I don’t know, we’ll see.”
Was she kidding? I guess we shall see.
Some things that were apparent to me about Sarah Palin this past Thursday: She’s charming because she’s quite comfortable with who she is. She can go head-to-head when it comes to facts and figures. She shines when teleprompters and scripts are nowhere in sight. She knows how to push all the nonsense aside and talk directly to the American people. She’s not afraid of tough questions. And there’s a forthrightness in her speech that is uninhibited and refreshing.
If Palin steps on stage for the 2012 presidential debates, she will certainly make her mark. She will thrive on the competition. She will welcome the challenges. And she will be grounded by her family, her faith, and her record.