Calling Barack Obama “the most pro-abortion president to ever occupy the White House,” Sarah Palin delivered a stemwinder of a speech—part piety, part politics—on Thursday night at a benefit that raised more than $200,000 for an anti-abortion group in Austin.
At least that’s what my notes say. “No photography or video-audio recording is allowed of this event per speaker contract,” the program for “An Evening with Sarah Palin” sternly cautioned—and the evening’s emcee, a personality from the Eternal Word Television Network, reiterated the message from the stage in no uncertain terms. As she sashays from one high-dollar appearance to the next, Palin—always a stickler for Constitutional freedoms, you know!—has included that clause in her contracts. Reporters were welcome at this benefit for Heroic Media, an Austin-based organization that specializes in media campaigns aimed at “changing the hearts” of “abortion-minded” pregnant women. But, with a few exceptions, we were welcome only if we ponied up $50 and relied on pen and paper to record the bon mots of the self-appointed president of Tea Party Nation.
No surprise there: When it comes to Palin and her political BFF, Gov. Rick Perry, internal contradictions and raging hypocrises are, it seems, as necessary to life as air and water.
Perry, who gushingly introduced his Alaskan ally, was in the squintingly sincere, purse-lipped, hushed-voice mode that he typically adopts when addressing religious folk. Until, that is, he spoke of his friendship with Palin, which began at the 2007 Republican Governors Association gathering she famously left to return to Alaska and deliver her fourth child, Trig.
“We found that we have a lot in common,” Perry said. “She reminds me often that size really does matter.”
There was scattered, nervous laughter in the ballroom full of churchy folks as Perry paused a bit nervously, waiting for his awkwardly off-color joke to sink in.
“Did you get that?” a man sitting near me asked his wife.
“Um,” she said.
“He means Alaska’s bigger and she kids him about that.”
“Ahhh!” Palpable relief. I knew the governor wouldn’t say something dirty.
Swankily attired in a bright red, big-buttoned jacket and form-fitting black skirt, Palin saluted Perry for his “fiscal responsibility” (Texas has “billions and billions of dollars in surplus,” she dissembled)—and for his now-infamous coyote-shooting story. “He defended his little dog from a Wile E. Coyote,” Palin quipped in her saucy way.
Which reminded her, as so many things do, of the awful, lying reporters who made up that crazy story about her “flying around with an AK-47,” blasting away at the animal life of her native state. (There was video, but really—so what?) “The media just making things up,” she said, rolling her eyes. “That’s what they do.”
Making another dig at Obama, Palin offered her very highest praise to the people of Texas: “You’re not afraid to cling to your guns and religion.” The folks ate it up, as Palin went on to call Texas (lots of electoral votes, you know!) “a blessed state” and praised it for “fighting the government takeover of health care with ObamaCare,” which she deemed “the mother of all unfunded mandates.”
But that, of course, is not the worst part of health reform. There are the death panels, which Palin reaffirmed her belief in. And then there’s the fact that ObamaCare “violates our conscience when it forces Americans to pay for things like elective abortions.” (It does not, but again, no matter.)
The Thrilla from Wasilla celebrated the success of anti-abortion groups like Heroic Media, crediting its bulletin boards, TV ads and Internet outreach with a purported 24 percent drop in abortions in Austin since it launched (under the name of Majella) in 2003. The abortion debate has turned around, Palin declared happily, with the majority of Americans now “pro-life.”
“After Roe v. Wade, you were told to sit down and shut up,” Palin said. “But instead, you went rogue.”
A person doesn’t earn a cool $12 million in nine months, as Palin has since last July, by being shy about cross-promotion.
But when she turned from political attacks and blatant self-promotion to the personal, spinning her yarns about Trig and her daughter Bristol’s teen pregnancy, Palin was undeniably charming—especially when she talked, with apparent frankness, about being “scared to death” upon finding out she had a Down’s Syndrome fetus inside her, and then devastated at finding out her teenaged daughter was pregnant.
More than anything, this is the secret to many conservatives’ hopeless love affair with the woman Keith Olbermann likes to call “Alaska’s half-governor.” When she’s not calling herself “blessed,” or lying about “ObamaCare” and other issues, Palin can deploy self-deprecating humor and a seeming frankness that are hard to resist. Until she takes it a step too far, and descends into the kind of disengenuousness that characterizes her politics.
Talking about Trig, who recently turned 2, Palin claimed that he makes her completely forget about “politics and the stuff on the periphery that you shouldn’t give a hoot about at the end of the day.”
Hands, please: Who believes Sarah Palin doesn’t give a hoot about politics? Or, for that matter, “stuff”?
Continuing to run off the rails of plausibility, Palin asserted that her experience with a special-needs child had taught her a lesson: “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who are unable to defend or speak for themselves.” Coming from a woman who has recently defended the Arizona “show me your papers” law, this wasn’t just hypocritical: It was downright vile.
“No one is beneath the law, and no one is beneath its protection,” she went on to say with equal implausibility. Then this: “The Declaration of Independence … recognizes everybody’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And this: “Let’s send a message to Washington that every life is worthy of protection.”
Every life? Every life of a fetus conceived by a U.S. citizen, she means.
After Palin’s remarks were blessed with a sustained standing ovation, a few questions “from our sponsors” were dished up to her and Gov. Perry. This gave Perry a chance to defend his pal from the incessant assaults of media evildoers like yours truly. “I don’t think there’s an example of the abuses that come to those who serve in public life like this woman sitting here,” Perry said.
Palin, nodding appreciatively, said that she’s constantly approached by folks who pity her for being so horribly “abused,” and tell her they’re praying for her. “It’s that prayer shield that allows those slings and arrows to just bounce off,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is my faith that gets me through. Faith is everything to me.”
Poor persecuted St. Palin! Her partner-in-persecution, Gov. Perry, fully empathized: “If I wasn’t 100 percent sure of where I was going to go when it’s all over,” he said, “it wouldn’t be worth doing.”
So now we know: Heaven is the place that is busy making preparations to welcome those God-blessed politicians, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. And, presumably, to summarily eject the evening’s lone protester, a young woman who, just after the governors exited the stage to another standing ovation, made her way toward the stage and tried to inject some debate into the evening—until she was carted off by security at the behest of Kimberly Guidry Spiers of Heroic Media, the evening’s beneficiary.
“We were told that was going to happen,” Spiers said calmly after ordering the ejection. “And it did.”
Some people, it seems, simply refuse to be blessed.