Early in her speech in Tulsa Wednesday evening (September 15), former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said she would not be surprised if some in the audience, based on news media coverage, believe she was “plucked from obscurity while staring at Russia from my home.” That got a laugh.
Near the end of her speech to the Liberty Gala, Palin said, “I can see November from my house. I can see November from this room, and it looks really good.” The reference to the election brought a roar from the crowd, as part of a powerful closing statement calling on attendees at the event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, to “take back” the U.S. government and restore limited, constitutional limited government.
In between those two moments, Palin took several stabs at news coverage of her 2008 vice presidential candidacy and her work since that time, endorsed recent moves toward education reform in Oklahoma, and outlined a pervasive fiscal conservative philosophy.
She observed that some journalists referred to those attending the recent Glenn Beck "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C. as “an angry mob.” Palin, a featured speaker at the event, said she was there with her mother and daughter Willow, and, “That was no angry mob, that was my mom.”
Palin teased about her alliance with Beck, who before an Alaska rally said he had “caught a trout” in Idaho. Palin said she got into a little “oneupsmanship” with her friend because she “had just caught a caribou.”
Palin renewed her endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidate Mary Fallin, saying her friend “understands the wisdom of utilizing natural resources” for human use. She said it was a mark of Fallin’s wisdom that she has visited the north slope of Alaska to study resource development for herself.
Palin said she was proud of Fallin and other “Mama Grizzlies” in primaries around the country. She added, “These Mama Grizzlies are part of a broad citizens’ movement.” In this week’s primary elections, she noted, “we saw some upsets, and those upsets upset some in the political machine.” Today, the Washington Post reported Palin has endorsed winning primary candidates 70 percent of the time.
As guests at the event gathered in the Tulsa Convention Center, members of Moveon.Org demonstrated nearby, crying out their opposition to Palin’s conservative views.
Attendees at the OCPA event included many of this year’s statewide candidates: U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, state Sen. Todd Lamb running for Lt. Gov., Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, Gary Jones former Republican State Chairman running for Auditor, former state Sen. Scott Pruitt and Dr. Janet Barresi. Holland’s opponent, John Doak and his wife, were also in the crowd.
Several state legislators were present, including state Reps. Pam Peterson of Tulsa, Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City, Dan Sullivan of Tulsa, Guy Liebman of Oklahoma City, and Gus Blackwell of Goodwell. Speaker-designate Kris Steele offered an opening prayer.
This was the third OCPA Liberty Gala held in Tulsa. The event has become a wildly successful opportunity for OCPA’s supporters in and around the area to gather for substantive discussion and policy reflection.
In her speech, Palin continually pointed to the November election as “a great opportunity to turn around the federal government.” She said it was time “to have the Tenth Amendment be actually lived out.” She called for conservative unity as the election unfolds.
She described Democrats as “a weakened leftist party.” Saying it was “time for common sense conservative solutions” she reported a comment she made earlier on Fox Television: “Attitudes are contagious. Let’s make sure the attitudes coming out from the primaries are worth catching.”
In what seemed a new theme for the widely-traveled speaker, Gov. Palin put stress on her experience in local politics, as a city council member, a mayor and a city manager before she rose to a role in oil and gas regulation and two years as governor of Alaska.
She jabbed at reporters for putting “an emphasis on my wardrobe and eyebrow movements” rather than her policy messages. Palin admitted she probably should not pick a fight “with people who buy ink by the barrel,” but insisted: “I didn’t pick this fight, and where I come from, you don’t retreat, you reload. I’m not going to let them trivialize the things I believe in, including the importance of our free press in a free society.” She admitted, “I personalize this. My son has fought to preserve their right to print what they print.”
She said she learned in local politics the tension between “freedom and the nanny state.” She found herself opposing proposals for forced annexations, “how many kids a mom could babysit in her own home,” regulation of barber shop poles and other measures. She said local fights had prepared her for later state level jousts where she pressed to “concentrate on the core functions of government.”
Palin quipped she has long been worried “ about those who are addicted to opium — that’s ‘OPM’ – other peoples’ money.” Speaking directly to Falin, she recalled what she characterized as “the largest veto cuts in state history,” telling her, “ if you do that the Legislature will get mad at you, but the public will appreciate you.”
She endorsed, “A true free market [that] levels the laying field for true capitalism, not crony capitalism.” In a slap at decisions by both former President George W. Bush and current President Barack Obama, Palin counseled “nothing is too big to fail.”
Recounting fights she had with some elements of the Alaskan energy business, Palin noted she was “not always the most popular girl on the block.”
Palin praised recent moves in Oklahoma to boost education choice, “charter schools, effective home schooling” and other steps. She lingered on the Sooner State’s new law allowing “special needs children to go to schools of choice.” She said, “Children with special needs for too long have been excluded. Why make it even tougher for these kids who have it so tough already?”
She and husband Todd believe “Trig reminds us of what really matters. The attitude that they can’t learn is a disservice to these children.” The couple’s youngest son lives with disability.
Palin assailed last year’s federal stimulus package, characterizing it as “a major federal power grab.” She noted she vetoed taking some federal stimulus funds during her tenure as governor, and was overridden. She remarked that federal money is “never free” and “always comes with strings attacked.” Palin said the stream of federal funding is “unsustainable” and new spending would “feed the beast, leading America into deeper debt.”
Palin recalled that Obama administration officials said the stimulus package would keep unemployment in the 8 percent range: “Well, it passed and now it’s at 10 percent.” Palin agreed with a ranking military official who characterized federal debt as “the most serious national security risk we face.”
Some of Palin’s strongest criticisms of the current administration came in her summary of “ObamaCare,” which, contrary to promises during congressional debate, has brought “worse care, less choice, less care and higher costs.”
Endorsing State Question 756, the ballot proposal to allow Oklahomans to “opt out” of federal health care, Palin called for political resolve in opposition to expansive federal powers. Rejecting views that America has needed “fundamental change,” she said “we need to restore this nation. This battle is the war.”
She said the November election would be a choice “between European style socialism or a liberty loving Republic. This is our Valley Forge. This is our rendezvous with destiny. Don’t retreat. Reload. Our Constitution is the guide.” That government is best that governs least.
At conclusion of the event, Palin was presented a bronze sculpture of a scissor-tailed flycatcher, the Oklahoma state bird. As she left the stage during a brief lull in applause, someone shouted out loudly enough for all to hear, “We love you!”
About the author:
Patrick B. McGuigan is editor of CapitolBeatOK, based in Oklahoma City, and has written frequently for Tulsa Today as Capital Editor since 2002.
Event Photos by Kevin Pyle for Tulsa Today.