NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The burgeoning tea party movement should remain leaderless and decentralized, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said Saturday, calling the effort “bigger than any king or queen of the tea party.”
“Put your faith in ideas. I caution against allowing this movement to be defined by one leader or operation,” she told the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville. The small government movement is “a ground-up call to action that’s forcing both parties to change the way they’re doing business. This is about the people.”
In her keynote address, Palin offered her analysis of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record and delivered a critique of his stimulus package – decrying the federal deficit as “generational theft.” The list of Obama’s broken promises is long, Palin said in her signature folksy delivery.
“How’s that hopey, changey stuff workin’ out for ya?” she asked 1,000 or so supporters who paid $349 apiece to attend her speech.
Palin applauded the president’s decision to increase forces in Afghanistan while deriding his efforts at diplomacy, singling out North Korea.
“We must spend less time courting our adversaries and more time working with our allies,” the former Alaska governor said. “The lesson of that last year is this: Foreign policy cannot be managed through the politics of personality.”
In recent months, Palin has positioned herself outside the Republican Party establishment. She passed on an invitation to attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and agreed to speak at the Nashville event.
Palin remained committed to the Nashville conference even after some tea party groups questioned its financing and accused the Tea Party Nation, which organized the event, of profiteering. A handful of sponsors pulled out of the event citing the hefty price tag of $549 for a ticket to the full convention.
The roughly 600 people who attended the full convention at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel were overwhelmingly white, older and disproportionately from neighboring states. They seemed united in their opposition to the growth of government and their belief Obama’s policies represent a dangerous creep of socialism into American life. They also were united in plans to turn what began as a protest movement into a political force for conservative candidates in the midterm elections.
Still, many resisted the suggestion they would unite under leadership from Palin or any other figure.
“I don’t think the tea party movement has a leader,” said Charlene Miller, of Cincinnati. “That’s not what this is about. She embodies the spirit of the tea party movement.”
Palin’s fee was $100,000 for the appearance at the for-profit event. But she said she would not keep the money, instead giving it back to “the cause.” She didn’t elaborate.