The line to get into the Glenn Beck- Sarah Palin road show’s Alaska stop on Saturday stretched around the corner and down a city block. One woman came with her hair tied back in an American flag; a bushy-haired man in a leather Jesus jacket warned of an impending 8.6 earthquake. Most, though, were ordinary-looking families, and with tickets at $73.75 to $225 each, a few even showed up with several children in tow.
“They tell the truth. Facts. Backed up by facts. Not just a bunch of hype,” said Brad Heck, a retired school principal from Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.
“We have a lot of the same values,” said Jeanne Perkins, who traveled 260 miles from North Pole, Alaska, and was getting her picture taken under a video screen bearing the Fox News host’s name. “He’s trying to restore history and bring back facts that were lost — covered up.”
If ever there was a time, place and message that seemed fated to meet, it was this Sept. 11 anniversary, the two leading personalities of bring-back-America conservatism, and the remote and opinionated region that gave birth to the political phenomenon that is Sarah Palin.
“He could be anywhere on the Earth today, and he chose Alaska!” said Palin, who spoke briefly before perching on a stool next to Beck for a three-hour show that resembled a tent revival more than a political forum.
“Stop looking for leaders and start looking inside yourself. Look, if you’re an Alaskan, you can do damn near anything. It’s the pioneer spirit,” Beck told the cheering, near-capacity crowd of more than 4,000, twice invoking an image of Palin with caribou blood under her fingernails.
“There is a need across America to have more of what there is here, out there,” Palin said. “That you are to be rewarded for your work ethic, that government really shouldn’t be taking from you and giving to others. …Thank God, personally speaking here, for my upbringing in Alaska, where I do know what is real.”
Earlier in the day, Palin and daughter Piper made an appearance at a Sept. 11 event in Wasilla organized by Alaska’s leading “tea party” organization, the Conservative Patriots Group, which also featured a slide show of the falling twin towers accompanied by “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.
“Our theme was ‘Never forget and never surrender,’ ” said Jennie Bettine, the group’s president. “People are tired of listening to other countries’ terrorist groups tell this country what to do.”
Beck and Palin have become an iconic matchup in conservative hearts across the country (hand-lettered Beck-Palin yard signs have begun springing up), but the two were at pains Saturday to say there would be no big political announcements.
“We would like to announce that in 2012, we will both be — voting,” Beck said, grinning.
The theme was a sequel to last month’s “Restoring Honor” event projected through the incendiary political flashpoint of the Sept. 11 anniversary. (Beck’s fee Saturday and proceeds from the earlier event went to his Special Operations Foundation for families of service members.)
Avoiding any talk of mosque construction or the Koran, Beck and Palin attempted to strike reflective notes, telling the crowd their recollections of the day.
“They called me and they said, ‘We want you on the air,’ ” said Beck, who said he watched the collapse of the towers on television from Tampa, Fla. “I spent the next few days on my knees, as every American did. I was pleading for some kind of guidance. I remember in that moment realizing I knew nothing … and I remember just saying, ‘Who am I to have a voice at this point? And try to guide people through it?’ ”
Palin, who was mayor of Wasilla, said she got a call at City Hall. “They said they were gathering people at the Lutheran church and the Baptist church,” she said. “So we shut down City Hall and we all ran up to the churches and we started praying for America.”
“Where were you, Obama?” shouted a woman in the crowd.
Outside the convention center in Anchorage, a few dozen protesters hoisted signs: “Sarah Palin: Joseph McCarthy in Lipstick” and “Beck ‘n’ Barbie Don’t Speak for Me.”
Desa Jacobsson, an Alaska Native who helped organize the protest and a similar rally earlier in the day at an Anchorage park, said she hoped it would be clear that not all Alaskans were welcoming the duo.
“There are Alaskans who believe that Palin and Beck are promoting hate and fear,” she said.
Beck’s message Saturday, delivered alternately through wisecracks and tears, was a call to Americans to invoke the principles of “faith, hope and charity” to take the nation back from an over-reaching government that he said had abandoned the ideals of the founding fathers.
“We must say, ‘You know that big, fat pension I was going to get? If I demand it now, my children will be slaves. You know that Social Security that I told them wouldn’t last but they forced me to pay it? If I demand it now, my children will be slaves,’ ” he said.
Beck called on his followers to wait patiently for other citizens to discover the truth and welcome them into the fold with solidarity.
“When they finally come over and say, ‘Hey, did you guys notice the country’s collapsing?’ we don’t say, ‘We told you!’ We say, ‘Thank God. Help us,’ ” he said.
“You are the people that are building the lifeboats. If you are the person that is standing when everybody else is freaking out, you must have firm reliance. You must be able to look another American in the eye and say, ‘Brother, we are going to make it … it’s going to be tough, but get … in the boat, brother.’ That’s who you need to be.”
To Beck’s audience, it was the proverbial sermon to the choir. As the $225 ticket-holders filed up for a private meet-and-greet, everyone else chattered happily toward the exits.
“Obama’s got to go. He’s got to go!” E.J. Larrivee II, a knife carver from Anchorage wearing a large fur cap, bellowed with a wide smile.
“On his watch, we went into debt. On his watch, we got oil in the Gulf of Mexico.” He thought for a moment. “Which is actually good for us,” he said. “Which would you rather eat, shrimp from our gulf or theirs?”