INDIANOLA, Iowa — Sarah Palin delivered a populist broadside here Saturday against President Obama, the entire political establishment and what she called the “crony capitalism” that she said is destroying the country. But she offered no fresh clues about whether she will seek the presidency in 2012.
Casting herself as the ultimate outsider, the former Alaska governor used a tea party rally to chastise the president and a “permanent political class” that she said has protected their powers and enriched them, their friends and their contributors at the expense of ordinary Americans and the country’s well-being.
“There is a name for this,” Palin said. “It’s called 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 the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts . . . and influence peddling and corporate welfare.”
Palin has said she will announce by the end of this month whether she will join the race for the White House in 2012. On Friday night, she told reporters “there’s room for more” candidates in the GOP field and when she arrived to greet supporters at a local restaurant, she was greeted with chants of “Run, Sarah, run.”
Many of those in Saturday’s large and enthusiastic audience, who braved repeated downpours until shortly before Palin appeared, came in anticipation that she might tip her hand in her speech. She stopped well short of that, but instead offered one of the most sweeping critiques of the political system since she first appeared on the national scene.
Palin sought to tap into the deep disaffection with Washington, as well as the widespread anxiety over the economy, by attempting to set herself apart from those in power and even those in her own party seeking the presidency. Palin decried the policies Obama has put in place as she called for an American restoration that would return power to the people.
“Folks, the truth is Barack Obama is adrift with no plan because his fundamental transformation is at odds with everything that made this country great,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t make sense.”
Crony capitalism, she said, represents “the collusion of big government and big business and big finance, to the detriment of all the rest.” She said she fought and defeated that kind of collusion as governor of Alaska.
Saturday’s appearance took place on the same date as her speech to the Republican National Convention three years ago, when she accepted the party’s vice presidential nomination, and she noted that she had predicted then that candidate Obama was not to be trusted. In strong terms, she urged his defeat in next year’s election, but made clear her belief that that that alone will not turn the country around.
At that point, she was interrupted as the audience rose to their feet and began to cheer and applaud and chant, “Sar-ah! Sar-ah! Sar-ah!”
Though Obama was the only person she criticized by name, she called for a thorough vetting of those seeking the White House to determine whether they are real reformers. She also said Republican candidates “who raise mammoth amounts of cash” should be asked what their donors “expect in return for their investments.”
Palin used her nearly 40-minute speech not only to denounce those in power but also to lay out her own prescription for reviving the U.S. economy. She called it a “bona fide pro-workin’ man’s” program that would check the power of “an out of touch and out of control” federal government.
“The way forward,” she said, “is no more business as usual.”
Palin called for the elimination of the federal corporate income tax, as well as an end to tax loopholes, corporate welfare and bailouts. “This is how we break the back of crony capitalism because it feeds off corporate welfare, which is just socialism for the very rich,” she said. “We can change all of that.”
She also urged a robust program to ramp up domestic energy production and said tackling the deficit will require setting priorities and cutting more spending. She also advocated reforming federal entitlement programs and repealing Obama’s health-care law. She offered no details or specifics.
In the Republican presidential race, both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) have attracted tea party support. But Palin appeared determined to reclaim her position as one of the natural leaders of the tea party movement and to urge a thorough examination of candidates seeking support.
She defended the movement from criticism that came from politicians in both parties, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who put her on the ticket in 2008, after the recent debt-ceiling battle in Washington. “Independent and common-sense Americans, we got blamed,” she said. “They called us un-American and terrorists and suicide bombers and — hobbits!”
Saturday’s audience included passionate Palin supporters who are eager to see her run for president. Ralph and Sonja Blackman of Indianola huddled together, wrapped in a red poncho, as they awaited Palin’s arrival. Both said they would support her if she runs for president.
“I think she’s real,” Sonja Blackman said. “She’s sincere. You can just look at her and she’s just kind of us.”
Others who support the movement said they think Palin can be more effective as a non-candidate. “I think she’s a great person to draw people together,” said Mary Ann Nolan, an Iowan. “I’m not really sure about her running for president. I think she’d be better behind the scenes pulling us together. . . . I think she’s just a lightning rod for the press, and they’ll just bring her down.”