Former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin served up so much red meat at CPAC 2013 that paraphrasing any of it would be like asking someone to eat a photocopy of a double bacon cheeseburger. Wait till you hear the crack she makes about President Obama’s enthusiasm for background checks on gun owners. And I think Marco Rubio’s water bottle has now been officially upstaged by Sarah Palin’s Big Gulp of Liberty.
Also on the subject of beverage consumption, Palin’s timeless advice to college Republicans was: “You’ve gotta be thinking Sam Adams, not drinking Sam Adams.”
Her overall theme is the difference between “leadership” and “campaigning,” which Palin sees as mutually exclusive. “Never before have our challenges been so big, and our leaders so small,” she said. “Leaders take risks for the good of our country. Campaigners make promises they can’t keep. Leaders reach across political differences, campaigners double down on those differences. Leaders seek to bring Americans together to confront our challenges, and campaigners seek to divide and to conquer and to orchestrate crisis after crisis after crisis to exploit. Mr. President, we admit it, you won. Accept it. Now step away from the teleprompter and do your job.”
In a similar vein, she criticized those – including many Republicans – who “focus on the process of politics, instead of the purpose of politics, which is to lead, and to serve.” She mourned the way stiff, heavily scripted Republicans have a habit of “reading their stage directions.”
And she wasn’t impressed with all the consultant talk of “re-branding” the GOP. “Let’s be clear about one thing,” she told the CPAC audience. “We’re not here to re-brand a party. We’re here to rebuild a country.” She encouraged Republicans to look past reams of data, and government statistics, to join her out in “flyover country” and see what things are really like.
Years of economic malaise have put a lot of stress on middle-class budgets… while, as Palin noted, Democrats in Washington have felt free to skip budgeting altogether for years. “No budget for four years is not just bureaucratic bungling,” she said. “Refusing to pass a budget is Washington refusing to declare what it intends to do with the people’s money. Barack Obama promised the most transparent Administration ever. Barack Obama, you lied.”
Palin called for conservative cooperation on the common ground of liberty, encouraging the audience to look past disagreements on certain issues to make common cause against government overreach. “Those who may disagree with us on some issues – they’re not our enemies. They’re our sisters, and our brothers. Our neighbors, and our friends,” she said. “America already has one party that’s expert at pitting groups against one another. We’ll never win a contest of identity politics. We shouldn’t even try.”
She spoke out against crony capitalism and “too big to fail” bailouts, and professed herself no greater fan of “top-down politics” run by consultants. She encouraged conservatives to seek out grass-roots candidates and support them against Establishment bullying. “The last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates,” Palin asserted, wryly inviting the “Architects” (a nickname commonly given to Karl Rove) to try heading back to the grassroots and winning a couple of elections before they dish out any more edicts.
Nothing seems to have shaken Palin’s belief in the capability of the American people to overwhelm the challenges facing them. She looks across the land and sees an abundance of both tools and willing hands. It’s the willpower and confidence of Americans that has too often been shaken by political machines that have a vested interest in doubt and uncertainty. She still has enthusiasm to spare, and she gives it away with a smile.