Nashville, Tennessee — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin drew many standing ovations from a friendly crowd Saturday night as she blasted Washington Democrats and the Obama administration in a keynote speech for what was billed as the first national Tea Party Convention.
“It’s so inspiring to see real people, not politicos, inside-the-beltway professionals, come out, stand up and speak out for common-sense conservative principles,” Palin said.
Palin sought to hold Washington accountable as she took on a number of issues, including national security, the economy, and the recent election of Republican Scott Brown to the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by the late Ted Kennedy.
“America is ready for another revolution and you are a part of this,” Palin said.
She called the Tea Party movement a “ground-up call to action that is forcing both parties to change the way they’re doing business.”
Palin gave particular attention to Brown’s election, calling him a representative “of this beautiful movement.”
“If there’s hope in Massachusetts, there’s hope everywhere,” she said. “His victory is a sign of more good things to come.”
She called on the administration to take note of the election results, saying “you better stop lecturing and start listening.”
“The Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda will leave us less secure, more in debt and under the thumb of big government,” she added, saying voters all over the country are sending a message that they want change in Washington.
She harkened Obama’s famous campaign slogan, asking, “How’s that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for you?”
On national security, Palin said Americans have grown uneasy in the wake of an attempted Christmas Day terror attack aboard a U.S.-bound flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands. She called on the administration to be transparent about threats facing the country.
“It’s not politicizing our security to discuss our concerns because Americans deserve to know the truths about the threats that we face,” she said, criticizing Obama’s approach to foreign policy with such hostile regimes as Iran.
On the economy, Palin said “we are drowning in national debt and many of us have had enough,” calling for a number of different reforms.
Palin was the darling of many conservatives when she served as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, which she said Saturday night was “the honor of a lifetime.”
Many of those attending the convention at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center said they are big Palin supporters.
Pam Silleman, a 52-year-old small business owner and Tea Party activist who traveled to the convention from California’s Napa Valley, called Palin “the Tea Party’s inspiration.”
Asked if Palin, who is considered a possible contender for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, should make a bid for the White House, Silleman said, “I would like to see her in a higher office but I don’t know that she’ll do it. I wouldn’t want her to be hurt that bad.”
Fremont Brown, a supporter who had “Palin 2012” bumper stickers with him, said Palin is “the right person.”
“She has fervent heart and she’s conservative,” added the 59-year-old Brown, who owns a small business in North Carolina. “She was the only one truly qualified with executive experience of the four who ran in 2008. The others were glorified lobbyists.”
If Palin does make a stab at presidential politics, she’ll have a natural following among Tea Party activists, whose grass-roots network is fueled by anger over the growth of the federal government and President Obama’s policies.
Neither the Tea Party Nation, the group that organized the convention, nor a Palin spokeswoman would confirm reports that the former governor is getting paid about $100,000 for her keynote appearance.
“I will not benefit financially from speaking at this event,” Palin said in a statement this week. “Any compensation for my appearance will go right back to the cause.”
In a blog post on the conservative Web site Townhall.com this past week, Palin said she looks forward to greater participation with the Tea Party movement in the coming weeks. She said she will be on hand next month for a kickoff rally for the third Tea Party Express, a cross-country bus caravan. The event will take place March 27 in Searchlight, Nevada, the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who finds himself in a tough re-election battle this year.
Palin also said she will attend an April 14 Tea Party rally in Boston.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. national poll released Friday indicates that Americans are split on Palin, with 43 percent seeing her in a positive light and 46 percent holding an unfavorable view.
“Opinion on Sarah Palin breaks down along party lines, with 7 in 10 Democrats disliking her and 7 in 10 Republicans with a positive view of Palin. She has a net-negative rating among Independents: 42 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “She also continues to rate better among men than women.”
Palin’s experience has frequently been called into question, most recently in a book that chronicles the 2008 campaign.
“Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann largely portrays the then-vice presidential candidate as wholly unprepared for the national stage and poorly versed in a range of pressing issues.
The book also alleges McCain aides quickly grew troubled with Palin’s lack of understanding on key issues, including the job of the Federal Reserve, the difference between North Korea and South Korea, and the purpose of the war in Afghanistan.
Palin has called the book “a bunch of BS from [McCain campaign manager Steve] Schmidt and those guys,” Palin said. “It’s pretty made up.”