Note: A correction for this post was made by the author at 4:40 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. — Ed.
Sarah Palin had a big day Thursday. She didn't mean to. But
as she was notably absent from the big event in the Republican
universe, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference
(CPAC) here in Washington, questions about her political
viability landed in four significant places in the Lamestream Media (as Palin likes to call it).
Palin skipped CPAC but will speak for another $100,000 fee at the Southern
Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on April 8. Despite her
absence from CPAC — the mother of all conservative gatherings that this year
participants are calling their own "Woodstock" — she will be included
in a presidential straw poll conducted at CPAC each year. Results will be
tallied Saturday evening, and despite the fact that Mitt Romney has won it each
year since 2007, you never know; maybe Palin takes the prize.
The first time I went to CPAC was in the mid-’90s. I worked for
Tom DeLay at the time, and DeLay was completely in his element.
CPAC is a trade show for conservative activists. It is a
place where Ann Coulter books sell like hotcakes. You can find big booths for
the National Rifle Association, pro-life groups and any other libertarian and
very conservative group.
While the Republican hack wing of the Tea Party movement thinks it is smart, Republicans in Congress are in for a rude awakening, because huge numbers of the American people hold them in contempt. While the Democratic partisans may think public relations will strengthen their position, Democrats in Congress are in for a rude awakening because the American people hold them in contempt, too.
When you deconstruct and closely analyze the details in their rhetoric, one quickly realizes the major philosophical and principle divide between liberals and conservatives.
Put simply, conservatives like us believe in equality of opportunity and unfettered freedom. Liberals, on the other hand, want a world where the outcomes are equal — almost guaranteed — even if it requires less societal income/wealth and lesser freedoms.
I watched with amazement at the discussion that occurred last week in Baltimore between President Barack Obama and the House Republican Conference.
I was not amazed by the president’s performance. I knew he would rise to the occasion, because he is good at being exactly at who he is. He does not have to make this up. He does not have to try hard. He does not need to write notes on his palm. He was civil and likable. You could tell that even conservative GOP House members who strongly disagreed with him ... well, they clearly like him. And how can you not? He’s a nice guy, a good guy, a decent guy — who is as good at depersonalizing criticism and moving on, as good at not holding grudges (though he might be entitled to do so, in many instances), as any person I have seen in 40-plus years of active involvement in politics.
Sarah Palin gave a great speech Saturday night in Nashville at the Tea Party convention. She is preparing to engage on a national level in a significant way, on Fox News, campaigning in primaries and possibly general-election campaigns this fall and staying on the speaking tour. According to Sunday's New York Times, Palin has created a circle of advisers who probably wrote that speech and keep her informed on the issues of the day. She is admittedly prepping herself for a new role: someone prepared to talk about policy, not just about herself.
If I were the organizers of that event — or one of the “grassroots” teabaggers who shelled out $349 for a steak-and-lobster dinner — I’d demand my money back.
For 45 minutes, all Palin did was string together a lame collection of clichés and cheap shots, without offering one idea of her own. Three times, she called for “common-sense conservative solutions to problems” — without suggesting even one of them.
Sarah Palin’s speech to the Tea Party Convention at Nashville brought to my mind the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, when Doc Watson and Bob Dylan were just anybody. It was raw and unpretentious, unformed and unscripted, informal and from the heart, but the beginning of something purely original and of vast and natural willfulness which appears to just now be awakened and will not be held back.