Santa Barbara (California), Feb. 5: Sarah Palin opened a weekend centennial celebration to former President Ronald Reagan by declaring that the US was lurching toward a “road to ruin”, a nation so beleaguered by debt and out-of-control government spending that an urgent change in direction was needed in Washington.
She did not, however, provide any fresh clues as to whether she will join the Republican fight to challenge President Obama or simply offer commentary from the sidelines. She delivered a withering critique of the president’s policies, particularly his State of the Union message to “win the future” by increasing government investment to remain competitive in the world.
“We were just told that the era of big government is here to stay and you’re going to pay for it whether you want to or not,” Palin said. “But they can’t sell it to us with the old sales pitch anymore. Now it’s much worse. It’s couched in a language of national greatness.”
For Palin, a speech last evening to a conservative group that gathered to pay tribute to President Reagan offered an opportunity to connect herself to the most iconic figure of the Republican Party.
Yet she did not use the appearance — one of the highest-profile Republican platforms in months — to move beyond familiar criticism or attempt to prescribe a new or specific remedy for what she sees as missteps in the Obama administration.
“How we answer will be America’s glory or our shame,” Palin said, drawing applause from a dinner crowd of about 200 people. “These aren’t easy questions. Today for many, there’s a fear in the air.”
Palin, the former Alaska governor and the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, delivered a 30-minute speech at the Reagan Ranch Center, a museum in downtown Santa Barbara. She drew modern-day parallels to Reagan’s 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing”, which he gave on behalf of Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential candidate.
In her remarks, she made no mention of the crisis in Egypt or how the administration has handled it.
Before arriving here yesterday, Palin has been unusually out of public view in recent weeks, stoking curiosity about her political intentions. But to an audience of conservative leaders, along with several top-shelf Republican contributors, she did little to suggest that she is preparing for a presidential campaign.
Presidential contenders, regardless of their celebrity, are put through a gauntlet of rituals that require a delicate air of patience as they deal with their admirers.
Prospective candidates, particularly if they are courting supporters, routinely sit through dinners and mingle with guests. But in her case, Palin entered the room only for her speech and left immediately after.
The appearance here was marked by tight security and rigid rules, with guests admonished to stay in their seats when she arrived. (“We’d all like to jump up and give her a high-five, but please stay at your tables,” Kate Obenshain, vice president of the foundation, announced from the dais. “There will be no book signings or autographs.”)
There is, of course, outsized curiosity surrounding Palin.
|NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE|