None of the Republican presidential candidates got anything like the response Sarah Palin earned from the CPAC crowd. Not even close. I lost count of the standing ovations.
Is it easier to get the whole crowd surging to its feet when you’re not a candidate, and nobody in the audience has an axe to grind? Maybe, but no other speaker at CPAC rocked the house like Palin did, either.
Could there be some residual protective affection warming a crowd that remembers how Palin was savaged during her days on the McCain ticket, and even more brutally attacked during the Left’s bizarre and despicable attempts to pin the Jared Loughner murders on her? Perhaps. Conservative audiences honor those who fight for their ideals, and never sell out. Selling out is easy. The rewards can be rich.
There aren’t enough inspiring, uncompromising heroes for a conservative audience to applaud. There’s a reason we’re still re-discovering Ronald Reagan through lectures and panel discussions, almost a quarter-century after his presidency ended, with people less than a quarter-century old filling the audiences.
But mostly I think Palin fires up a crowd because of her sincerity. At one point, she said the Republican presidential candidate should be someone “who instinctively turns right to Constitutional conservative principles,” and it’s “too late to teach that.” She has that instinct. She doesn’t have to check off any boxes or carefully plan her oratory to please a conservative audience. She understands. She makes it look easy. She makes you wonder how her countrymen could have been foolish enough to put Barack Obama in the White House, and what he’s still doing there.
It’s possible her observation that it’s too late to teach our presidential candidate how to turn Right was meant as a veiled jab at Mitt Romney. She didn’t endorse anyone, and she repeated her desire for the primary season to continue, because “in America, we believe that competition strengthens us.” Not surprisingly, given her experiences during and after the 2008 campaign, she has a dim view of campaign consultants.
“The federal government has never cast a bigger shadow,” Palin said, “so for the past three years we’ve been waving a bold banner that says ‘Don’t Tread On Me.’ You see, the Tea Party rose up because Americans rose up.” Has any presidential contender looking for the Tea Party vote summed them up so vividly, and succinctly?
Palin pointed out that Obama’s debt pile amounts to $135,000 worth of red ink for every taxpayer. It’s getting deeper at $3 million per minute, and Obama has “no plan to stop it… no plan… no budget. Going on 1000-and-some-odd days, and still no budget. He mucked it up. Folks, this government isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed. It’s too big to ignore, and it is too big to bear any more.”
What did we get for all that madcap spending? “Eight and a half percent unemployment, and 13 million Americans who can’t find work. 46 million living in poverty. Now, government dependency has gone up under Obama has gone up 23 percent, and for the first time in our history, folks are fearing that our future is going to be worse than our past.”
The President’s dead-end defenders have been reduced to squeaking that he did the best job anyone could have done, given the “mess he inherited.” It’s hard to imagine anyone doing worse than that muck-up, Barack Obama.
Palin described our grim state of affairs as, not a failure of the American people, but a failure of our leadership. “But we know how to change that… oh, yes we do. Oh, yes we can! ‘Hope and change?’ Yeah, you gotta hope things change.” Then she swiped “We Can’t Wait” for good measure.
Someone tried to heckle Palin, but the crowd blew them out of the room, first by chanting “USA!” and then by shouting Palin’s name. “See?” she declared happily. “You just won! See how easy that is?”
Another easy gift Palin gave the crowd was a glimpse into the future, which requires nothing more than reading the headlines from Europe. “If they keep trying to tax, and take, and spend our way to prosperity, we know where we’ll end up. Just look to the Old World to see the New World’s future. It’s a future of downsizing, and downturns, and downgrades. Now that’s the future of the far Left’s dreams. That’s not the American Dream. And, so help me God, it’s not a future we will ever accept!”
She’s good at laying out the conflict of visions, noting that President Obama’s last State of the Union speech was another raft of pie-in-the-sky promises, from a man who has already broken the government’s bank several times over. She zeroed in on Obama’s imperative to create “an economy that’s built to last,” saying that the last thing we want is for his horrible economy to last any longer. Instead, we need an “economy built to grow.” Re-distribution and creation are mutually exclusive. It really is about stasis vs. growth. Leave it to Sarah Palin to notice that Obama explicitly promises stasis. That’s what comes naturally to him.
Palin noticed that Obama’s mania for regulation somehow didn’t prevent the $1.2 billion disaster at MF Global, the investment firm run by his good friend, top contributor, economic guru, and Democrat Party stalwart Jon Corzine. Recalling Obama’s comment about Americans bitter clinging to God and guns, because they were frustrated with the pace of his big plans to change America, Palin said, “Keep your change. We’ll keep our God, our guns, and our Constitution.”
Time and again, she easily reduced Obama to the absurd and preposterous figure he is. At a CPAC forum earlier in the day, the value of humor as a political weapon was discussed. Liberal comedians absurdly insist they can’t find anything to mock about Obama because they know once Americans start laughing at him, they’ll never stop. Sarah Palin understands that as well as anyone in Hollywood.
She’s not just funny, but inspirational, in a no-nonsense “if not us, then who?” way. She finds the Obamanoids’ contempt for average Americas insulting, and their refusal to project both American strength and values abroad to be dangerous. From unborn children to the state of Israel, she doesn’t think anyone who deserves America’s protection should have to wonder about whether it will be there for them. “We will refuse to accept that a weaker America means a better and safer world,” Palin declared, cutting very close to the heart of what passes for “international community organizing” these days.
Palin observed that Washington D.C. has prospered, even as the rest of the economy withered, even though Washington makes nothing and produces nothing. The “Washington of the permanent political class” should not be “the playground for the government rich,” a place where “millionaires are minted overnight.” It’s ridiculous that such a place should be able to use envy and hatred of the rich as a weapon against the rest of us.
She joked that reclassifying the Washington swamp as a “wetland” might be the only thing that could slow down its growth, as such a designation would arouse the zero-growth EPA. She returned to the theme of “crony capitalism” she has often stressed, the “capitalism of connections, and of government bailouts, handouts and waste.” She fears “how many more Solyndras might be out there” as Obama repays the rest of his campaign debts. It’s funny how so many who come to D.C. “denouncing the cesspool of corruption” decide “it’s more like a hot tub” after a year or two. “And they’re hopping in and enjoying the Jacuzzi!”
The Tea Party victory in 2010 was the first step in draining that hot tub. Although dismissed and lied about, the Tea Party members of Congress “have kept their promises to the people who voted for them,” and “now they need reinforcements.” She expects the Republican hierarchy to reward those Tea Party stalwarts with leadership positions, after the reinforcements show up.
Above all, what Palin encourages is unity. She has no truck with those who would sit out the election because their favored candidate didn’t win. “For the sake of our country, we must stand united, no matter who our nominee is,” she declared. With victory in 2012 secure, “we will have a President who defends our American way of life, instead of apologizing for it. We will have a Commander-in-Chief worthy of our troops.”
“We are the heirs of patriots, who cast off the chains of tyranny,” Palin concluded. It is freedom that makes us exceptional, and protecting that freedom is an exceptional duty. It always has been as simple as that. The guys who muck everything up are the ones who make it sound complicated. They’ve got a billion reasons why you shouldn’t kick them out of that hot tub.