Opinion: Sarah Palin gives a rousing non-campaign campaign speech in Iowa


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Sarah Palin brought it and then didn’t take it on the campaign trail.

After a rain delay, an undercard that left the crowd impatient for the main event, some songs and a showing of the ‘Iowa Passion’ video, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate hit the stage at the Tea Party of America’s ‘Restoring America’ event at the National Balloon Classic Field in Indianola, Iowa, to chants of ‘Run, Sarah, run.’

Today, Saturday, Sept. 3, is three years to the day from Palin’s roof-raising speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, which launched her into national prominence. As on that night, Palin opted for a light-colored top. But in Iowa, it was not an oyster-colored silk designer jacket, but a rib-knit cream sweater. And if you didn’t know Palin hadn’t yet announced, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s knee-deep in the race.


(Scroll down for video at bottom.)

The crowd got many of the themes it came for, including the ‘restoration’ of American, American exceptionalism and the virtues of working people and small towns, along with the Palin bedrock issue of developing American energy resources.

She also went straight at President Obama and his policies, decrying his handling of the economy -- including ‘Obama’s bullet train to bankruptcy’ -- and referring to his ‘winning the future’ theme, saying, ‘President Obama, is this what you call winning the future? I call it losing, losing our country and with it the American dream.’

Palin praised the tea party movement, calling it an ‘American awakening’ and relating it to such historic events as the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement (smart move, since this was a tea party rally).

She called it a movement of ordinary Americans, saying, ‘You got up off your couch; you came down from the deer stand; you came out of the duck blind; you got off the John Deere; and we took to the streets.’

While declaring herself allied with individual Americans, Palin echoed themes that worked for her when running for governor of Alaska, decrying ‘corporate crony capitalism’ and the ‘permanent political class.’

She aimed this at the Obama administration, accusing the president of rewarding big donors with subsidies and bailouts.


‘Barack Obama has shown us cronyism on steroids,’ she said.

But you may remember Palin’s biggest gubernatorial challenge was in the primary against....

...a well-connected Republican incumbent. So, also made comments about big-money-raising GOP candidates. You might even say she was referring to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has been accused of being overly cozy with big supporters in the Lone Star State. ‘What, if anything, do their donors expect in return for their investments?’ she asked. ‘We need to know this, because our country can’t afford more trillion-dollar thank-you notes to campaign backers.’

Palin recalled how often she’d been outspent in campaigns and said to the crowd, ‘Like you, I’m not for sale.’

While listing the criticisms leveled at the tea party movement and at the freshman Republican representatives it helped elect, Palin also took a swipe at her 2008 running mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had referred to conservatives reluctant to raise the debt ceiling as ‘Hobbits.’

‘They called us un-American,’ she said, ‘and terrorists and suicide bombers and ... Hobbits? What? Couldn’t understand that one.’

In the back half of her 40-minute speech, Palin proposed a plan, a ‘bona fide pro-working-man’s plan,’ including enforcing the 10th Amendment; repealing Obamacare; having a ‘come to Jesus moment’ about tackling entitlement reform; and developing American energy resources.


She proposed eliminating all federal corporate income tax in exchange for getting rid of ‘corporate welfare,’ loopholes and bailouts, to, as she said, ‘break the back of crony capitalism, which feeds off of corporate welfare, which is just socialism for the very rich.’

Again saying, ‘You don’t need a title to make a difference,’ the hardest-campaigning non-candidate in the GOP race threw responsibility for change back to the people in the field in front of her (and by extension, to the CSPAN audience).

‘We can confront the problem,’ she said, ‘and we can achieve lasting reform. ... We will be demonized; they’ll mock you; they’ll make things up; they’ll tell you to go to hell ... We won’t say, ‘No, you go to hell,’ we won’t say that. ... No, the road isn’t easy, but it’s nothing compared to the suffering and the sacrifice of those who came before us.’

Concluding with an appeal to grace and the ‘providential hand’ of God, Palin’s final remarks included this (unattributed) paraphrase of a quote from Abraham Lincoln, ‘We shall nobly save, not meanly lose, this last best hope on Earth.’

In the end, Palin did not announce a campaign -- even though the ‘Run, Sarah, run’ chants broke out during the speech as well -- nor did she endorse anyone else who’s running. She attacked the current administration while also throwing warnings to her fellow Republicans about being wobbly on the principles she outlined.

Then Palin descended into the crowd, spending a long time taking photos and signing whatever people thrust at her -- iPhones, hats, books (hers, of course) and bumper stickers.


Now Palin’s off to New Hampshire to speak to another tea party rally in Manchester on Monday, Labor Day, and perhaps, or not, announce a candidacy -- or to strike a hard bargain in exchange for an endorsement.

Only Palin knows for sure, and so far, she’s not telling.


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-- Kate O’Hare

Media critic Kate O’Hare is a regular Ticket contributor. She also blogs about TV at Hot Cuppa TV and is a frequent contributor at entertainment news site Zap2it. Also follow O’Hare on Twitter @KateOH.


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Photos/Video: Sarah Palin speaking at Tea Party of America Rally in Indianola, Iowa; supporters listen to Palin speak; Palin signs autographs; CSPAN coverage of Palin speech. Photos credit: CSPAN (screenshots). Video credit: CSPAN/