Conservative activists in Nashville this week for the first-ever National Tea Party convention gave a hero's welcome to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who closed the event with a speech last night. Palin praised the Tea Party movement and delivered a scathing -- sometimes mocking -- critique of both the economic and national security policies of the Obama administration.
After three days of workshops and speeches by movement leaders far less well known, Tea Party convention delegates got to see a bona-fide conservative superstar.
"I am so proud to be an American," she called out to the cheering crowd Saturday night in a hotel ballroom at the Opryland resort. "Thank you so much for being here tonight. Do you love your freedom?"
She drew more big cheers when she told Tea Partiers that America is ready for another revolution.
This was the rare Palin speech these days to be open to the press, and she used the opportunity to tear into the president. She described his foreign policy as not recognizing the true threats America faces. She cited the decision to criminally charge the suspect in the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt as a move that she says puts the country at grave risk.
"Because that's not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this. They know we're at war and to win that war we need a commander in chief and not a professor of law standing at the lectern."
On the economy, she accused the White House of pushing a stimulus package that hasn't created the promised jobs. Millions of dollars have been wasted, she said.
Palin also says the Obama administration has not been transparent as promised during the campaign.
"This was all part of that hope and change and transparency. Now, a year later, I gotta ask the supporters of all that, 'How's that hopey, changey stuff working out?'"
The speech was short on policy specifics; the former GOP vice presidential candidate spoke of getting back to the kind of conservatism exemplified by that most revered Republican president, Ronald Reagan. In fact, she invoked Reagan's name several times during her remarks.
The speech lasted just over 40 minutes, but it was followed by 20 minutes of conversation with conference organizer Judson Phillips, who read questions submitted in advance to the conference Web site.
We all know about the Obama plan, Philips read to Palin. What, he asked, is the Palin plan?
"My plan is quite simple," Palin answered. "To support those who support the foundation of our country when it comes to the economy. It is free market principles that reward hard work and personal responsibility."
And on national security: "It's easy to just kind of sum it up by repeating Ronald Reagan when he talked about the Cold War and we can apply it to our war on terrorism. We win. They lose, and we do all we can to win."
Palin said time and again the Tea Party movement doesn't need a leader — even as she looked just like the very leader the people here would like to have.
Then came the final question.
"I can think of two words right now that scare liberals," Phillips said. "President Palin."
The cheers then became a chant of "Run, Sarah run."
Palin smiled, but didn't address the implied question. Instead she said, "I will live, I will die for the people of America. Whatever I can do tonight, this party, this Tea Party, is the future of America and I'm proud to get to be here today." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.