INDIANOLA, Iowa—Sarah Palin offered no new clues about her 2012 intentions, but signaled the themes of a possible presidential campaign at a rain-soaked tea party rally south of Des Moines Saturday afternoon with an exuberant attack on “crony capitalism” and the “permanent political class” of both political parties.
Targeting her criticism toward Republicans as well as Democrats, Palin presented herself as the champion of ordinary Americans against “a collusion of big government and big business and big finance” that has saddled the nation with unaffordable federal debts and impeded recovery.
She directed her sharpest barbs at President Obama, but also fired a clear warning shot toward a 2012 GOP field that she has left open the possibility of joining.
Palin argued that the core of Obama’s agenda was using taxpayer dollars to reward his supporters. “Between bailouts for Wall Street cronies, and stimulus projects for union bosses’… and green energy giveaways, he took care of his friends, and now they are on course to raise $1 billion for his reelection bid so they can do it all over again,” she charged.
Moments later, she told the crowd that they should question whether the 2012 Republican candidates now raising “millions” from donors can be trusted to do any better. “We need to ask them too, what if anything do their donors expect in return for their investments. We need to know this…because our country can’t afford more trillion dollar thank you notes to campaign backers,” she said.
Through her energetic 40 minute speech, Palin drew excited applause from a crowd of several thousand, whose numbers were suppressed by a driving rain that let up only shortly before she spoke. When she said “the challenge is not simply to replace Obama in 2012” but to elect a candidate committed to reform, she prompted an excited chant of “run Sarah run” from the crowd. But after dropping that hint, she offered no more indication about her thinking on whether to join the race.
Palin has said she intends to decide whether to enter the race by the end of September. But her standing in polls of 2012 among Republicans has fallen substantially. First Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and then, even more formidably, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, captivated many of the evangelical and Tea Party voters that have provided the core of Palin’s support; at the other end of the party's ideological and demographic spectrum, a recent Gallup survey found that less than three percent of college-educated Republicans said they would back her if she runs.
Some of Palin’s remarks Saturday might be read as a being aimed at Perry, who has faced charges of “crony capitalism” in Texas, but if so, the warning was very oblique and no more obviously targeted toward him than any of the other candidates.
Instead, Palin used her remarks to reprise classic themes of conservative populism by identifying herself with hard-working Americans and lamenting the influence of what she called a “permanent political class” fattening itself at their expense. Reaching back beyond her more recent identity as a cultural warrior and even a celebrity, she anchored her speech on the argument that she had confronted and confounded a similar pattern of insider dealing between government and the oil industry in Alaska. "Like you, I am not for sale," she declared.
Washington, she said, has now produced a system of “corporate crony capitalism.
"It’s not the capitalism of free men and free markets of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is a capitalism of connections and government bailouts and hand-outs. It’s waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe’s economies," she said. "It is the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest.”
Palin argued that the economy will not recover until that pattern is broken. “We will not solve our economic problems until we confront the cronyism of our president and our permanent political class,” she declared.
Toward that end, she proposed to completely eliminate the federal corporate income tax in return for eliminating corporate subsidies, and tax breaks.
Even the Republican Congress didn’t escape Palin’s lash. Indirectly she targeted GOP lawmakers at several points during her speech, including one point where she declared: “Look at what happened during the debt ceiling debate….Instead of making the real cuts that are necessary-they used Enron-like accounting gimmicks and they promised that if they were just allowed to spend those trillions more today they would cut billions ten years from now.”
Palin even jabbed at Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who placed her on the 2008 ticket, for his comments during the debt ceiling fight in which he compared the Tea Party to “hobbits.”