Despite becoming a bestselling author, a highly paid Fox News contributor and a sought-after speaker, in some ways, it’s as if Sarah Palin never stopped running against Barack Obama.
As the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008, she never really was his actual opponent. But ever since she and Arizona Sen. John McCain lost that election, Palin seems to have carried a sense of grievance. The press, she has maintained, concentrated too much on her and too little on Obama.
And she is not alone.
In a well-received, 35-minute speech Friday evening at a convention of conservative bloggers in the Sands Expo center in Las Vegas, the former Alaska governor returned to a favorite topic: castigating what she likes to call “the lame-stream media” for failing to vet Obama.
“No, the media did not do their job,” said Palin, who wore a beige V-neck sweater, her trademark black pencil skirt and an oversized Star of David necklace, perhaps in deference to the locale’s proprietor, Sheldon Adelson, the Republican mega-donor whose support for Israel has driven his politics.
“But, say for argument, they couldn’t afford to do the job,” Palin said. “Say they couldn’t afford to send a reporter to Chicago, ‘cause they spent all their money in Wasilla to find out what kind of coffee Bristol ordered when she was 17. Why did they not at least read his autobiography? They would have learned a whole lot and not just about that pakalolo smoking and cocaine snorting, and what he ate.” (The last was a sly reference to the passage in Obama’s “Dreams From My Father” about tasting dog meat when he lived in Indonesia as a child.)
“I think it’s funny that the cocktail circuit give me a hard time for eating elk and moose, but come on, anybody here have a pet moose?” asked Palin. “There is a difference.”
Among the appreciative audience members was Shane Kahnke, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mother and blogger whose pink hair and tattoos definitely stood out in the mostly middle-aged crowd.
“I love her snark,” said Kahnke. “'Who has a pet moose?' I love that.”
Few in the crowd expressed disappointment that Palin chose not to run for president.
“If she’s not ready for it, I don’t want her to run,” said Lydia Ruth Vine, 29, an Indianapolis blogger. “She knows what she’s doing. When she is ready, I will back her completely.”
Neva Hervold, a 65-year-old employee of the Las Vegas School District, was so entranced by Palin’s speech that she was surprised when it ended. “I liked that she was so prepared, very personable in her delivery, she wasn’t shrill, she was energetic, humorous. She really took me on a journey.”
Hervold said she also loved that Palin referred to Obama’s history of drug use. “Nobody picked up on it in 2008. The media didn’t want to know what he studied. His associations should be trouble to us as Americans.”
Had the “old media” done its job, Palin said, the country would have understood Obama’s “strange attraction to the most radical of leftist ideas, leading to his government-by-intrusion in all aspects of our commercial and private life, all the way up to his war on religion. And we would have known that he actively, proudly sought out Marxist professors and was actually a member of the socialist New Party when he ran for state office in the ‘90s.”
Palin's reference is to a story gaining traction right now in the right-wing blogosphere. On June 7, the conservative journalist Stanley Kurtz wrote a story in the National Review examining Obama’s affiliation in the 1990s with a Chicago organization called the “New Party.” Kurtz says the group is socialist. The group, founded by a University of Wisconsin professor, has disputed that characterization.
Palin also seemed still to be stung about stories that arose during the 2008 campaign that her husband, Todd, was until 2002 a member of the Alaska Independence Party, which advocates Alaskan secession from the United States. Reporters made a “big darn deal” about Todd Palin’s political affiliation, she said. “Well, Todd sure as heck never registered as a Socialist,” she said to laughs and applause.
“Had voters known, they would be surprised that our now president thinks the government has the right to redistribute the fruits of your labor. And in the middle of the worst recession of our lifetime, he would be one to declare that the private sector is doing just fine. He doesn’t understand the private sector perhaps because he doesn’t believe in the private sector.”
Palin did not once mention the name of the president’s Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Nor did she urge the troops to support him. But that was not a shocker for this crowd, many of whom are reluctantly supporting Romney because he is Obama’s opponent.
No one seemed to mind. After all, the Right Online gathering was not really about the presidential election.
Organized by the anti-tax Americans for Prosperity, a group co-founded by the oil billionaire David Koch, it was an extended seminar for conservative bloggers on how to use social media and blogs to further the conservative cause. Dedicated to the late conservative Internet entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, the two-day event was both a tribute to him and a pep rally for those learning to use their voices to effect political change.
“Independent, conservative new-media activists,” said Palin, “You are an army of Davids against Goliath, the Old Media that still wants to deceive.... So I just thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for correcting the untruths. I know many of you had my back, I can’t tell you how grateful my family and I are for your efforts.”