NASHVILLE — “I’m so proud to be an American! Happy birthday, Ronald Reagan.”
Sarah Palin took the stage of the National Tea Party Convention to a thundering ovation, which she cut down quickly by praising “anyone who serves in uniform or has served in uniform” and diving right into her speech.
“I am a supporter of this movement. I believe in this movement,” said Palin. “America is ready for another revolution.”
Palin adroitly rewrote the history of the past three months of elections, giving the Tea Party movement credit for Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts and calling the White House “0 for 3″ in recent elections — leaving out the New York special election where her candidate, the Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman, lost in a last-minute upset.
“You know,” said Palin of Brown, “he was just a guy with a truck, and a passion to serve his country,” said Palin. Brown, however, was a state senator and state representative whose campaign staffers cut their teeth with Mitt Romney.
Nodding at the much-discussed question of whether this speech would make Palin the “leader” of the Tea Party movement, she said that the activists did not have a “king or queen.” At the same time, she called for “contested primaries,” calling them a strength of democracy — nodding at her fairly controversial endorsements of Hoffman and Rand Paul.
Palin swung quickly and heavily to foreign policy, with a litany of attacks on Obama — from his “personality”-based diplomacy to giving “Constitutional rights” to “homicide bombers,” using a term that’s rarely heard outside of Fox News, where she is a contributor.
When she moved back to domestic policy, Palin delved again and again into stories that are familiar to political junkies and Tea Party activists. “How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?” said Palin, paraphrasing a slogan made popular on Tea Party t-shirts.” She mocked the stimulus package — the speech was heavy on mockery — by leaning slightly down and saying “nobody messes with Joe,” quoting a comment President Obama made that has been more or less forgotten outside of Tea Party circles.
Palin got rapt attention, and little crowd interruption — not even positive interruptions or cries of “Drill, Baby, Drill” — even as she tackled less sensational (and not really discussed during the convention) issues like nuclear power and buying insurance over state lines. But she was on more solid ground with one short clause about America being a place where “special needs children are accepted.” She started to choke up — the audience cheered, wildly, as if nudging her on to the next sentence while proclaiming its admiration for her son Trig.
“Each of us here is living proof that you don’t need a title to make a difference,” said Palin. “Let us not get bogged down in the small squabbles. Let us move on to the big ideas. To do so would be a fitting tribute to Ronald Reagan.”
After the speech, Judson Phillips and Palin sat down in two chairs (which sat rather awkwardly onstage during the speech) and engaged in a soft Q&A with questions from Tea Party Nation members, such as the top three things she’d do if she were president (energy, bipartisanship — it was rather confusing). She closed by addressing the controversy over her speaking fee.
“I am happy, honored, proud, to get any speaking check that was ever offered to me and to give it for the cause,” said Palin. “I will live and die for this cause.”