NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sarah Palin declared "America is ready for another revolution" and repeatedly assailed President Barack Obama on Saturday before adoring "tea party" activists. They make up a seemingly natural constituency should she run for president.
"This movement is about the people," the 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee said as the crowd roared. "Government is supposed to be working for the people."
Palin noted Democrats' electoral losses since Obama took office a year ago with talk of hope and promises of change and asked: "How's that hope-y, change-y stuff workin' out for you?"
Her audience waved flags and erupted in cheers during multiple standing ovations as Palin gave the keynote address at the first national convention of the "tea party" coalition. It's an anti-establishment, grass-roots network motivated by anger over the growth of government, budget-busting spending and Obama's policies.
Filled with Palin's trademark folksy jokes, the speech amounted to a 45-minute pep talk for the coalition and promotion of its principles. The speech also was rife with criticism for Obama and Democrats who control Congress, but delivered with a light touch. But, aside from broad conservative principles like lower taxes and a strong national defense, the speech was short on Palin's own policy ideas that typically indicate someone is seriously laying the groundwork to run for the White House.
Indeed, Republican observers say she's seemingly done more lately to establish herself as a political celebrity focused on publicity rather than a political candidate focused on policy.
Catering to her crowd, Palin talked of limited government, strict adherence to the Constitution, and the "God-given right" of freedom. She said the "fresh, young and fragile" movement is the future of American politics because it's "a ground-up call to action" to both major political parties to change how they do business. "You've got both party machines running scared," she said.
Palin suggested that the party should remain leaderless and cautioned against allowing the movement to be defined by any one person. "This is about the people" and "it's a lot bigger than any charismatic guy with a teleprompter," she said, jabbing at Obama.
"Let us not get bogged down in the small squabbles. Let us get caught up in the big ideas," she said, though she offered few of her own.
The former Alaska governor, who resigned from office last summer before completing her first term, didn't indicate whether her political future would extend beyond cable news punditry and paid speeches to an actual presidential candidacy.
All she offered was a smile when a moderator asking her questions used the phrase "President Palin." That prompted most in the audience to stand up and chant "Run, Sarah, run!"
But, given the plethora of attacks that Palin leveled at Obama, she seemed like she was already running against him. And, perhaps, as an independent.
She talked little about the Republican Party, going so far as to suggest that she should apologize to the party for her inability to get her husband to register with the GOP. She also encouraged "tea party"-aligned candidates to compete in GOP primaries, saying: "Contested primaries aren't civil war; they're democracy at work and that's beautiful."
Palin criticized Obama for continuing to blame George W. Bush for the country's woes instead of blaming what she called the Democrat's own big-government, big-spending agenda that has made the country less secure. She called his policies out of date and said they were "running out of time," suggesting big GOP wins in the fall mid-term elections.
She also ribbed him for Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia governor's races last fall and in a Massachusetts Senate race last month, saying: "When you're 0-3 you'd better stop lecturing and start listening."
On foreign policy and national security, Palin said he had "misguided thinking" and a pre-Sept. 11 mindset, saying: "We need a commander in chief" not a professor of law.
"Foreign policy can't be managed through the politics of personality," she said.
She assailed the $787 billion stimulus plan — "Did you feel very stimulated?" she asked — and said the administration's deficit spending was "immoral" and "generational theft."
Her fee was $100,000 for the appearance at the for-profit event. But she said she would not keep the money, instead giving it back to "the cause." She didn't elaborate.
Admission was $549 for access to the entire three-day gathering or $349 just to hear Palin's speech after a dinner of lobster and steak at the sprawling Gaylord Opryland resort. The cost led to criticism from even some activists that it runs counter to the coalition's image and could preclude people from attending.
It's just one of several "tea party" appearances Palin plans in the coming weeks. She will speak at a rally in Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's hometown of Searchlight, Nev., to kick off the Tea Party Express III tour. In April, she heads to Boston for "tea party" gathering there around the one-year anniversary of the coalition that began last spring.