So which great voice of the American heartland did Sarah Palin draw upon for her speech to the NRA? Abraham Lincoln? Will Rogers? Barry Goldwater?
No, actually . . . Jeff Foxworthy. Really.
Palin noted while she bristled at a lot of the names she and Tea Party protesters are called, she didn’t mind being called a “redneck.” Then, scrolling through a list on her cell phone/PDA, she proceeded to share which of the comedian’s “you might be a redneck” jokes applied to her and her husband Todd. Among them, “if you have used a fishing license as a form of ID,” “if going to get dinner involves wearing camouflage,” and “if you think Wal-Mart is expensive . . . well, sometimes it is!” Along the way, she told tales of the year she gave Todd a Christmas gift of gasoline for his snowmobile, and her friend throwing her a baby shower at a gun range.
The crowd, unsurprisingly, adored it. And they ate up most of her comments and lines of attack, hitting the “lamestream media” for getting facts wrong, hitting Hollywood for supporting gun control while marketing shoot-’em-up action movies that glorify violence, the importance of predator-control programs like the much-misconstrued use of helicopters in Alaska.
“I can’t wait for the midterm elections,” Palin said, echoing a point by nearly every Republican speaker and one noticeably absent in addresses from the warmly received Democrats like Gov. Bev Perdue of North Carolina and Reps. Health Shuler of North Carolina and Dan Boren of Oklahoma. She did not mention other candidates, such as her newest endorsement, South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley.
Palin’s appearance here was widely interpreted as an omen of her interest in running in 2012. But the NRA members did not greet, listen, and applaud her as a potential president; her connection with the crowd was on a much more personal level, almost as if listening to an intimate friend. Palin herself has lost any semblance of speaking like a politician; there’s no jargon, no strategic ambiguity or opaque wording; she’s moved from dropping her ‘g’s to punctuating each point with a sarcastic jab at her image in the eyes of her critics — “Oh, but I’m the idiot.” She took a moment to defend President Obama from criticism from an animal-rights group over killing a fly: “Swat away, Mr. President.”
In his brief introduction of her, the NRA’s Chris Cox described her as “a literal force of nature.” We can quibble whether or not she has become a hurricane or heat wave; but as a road show, she’s continuing to leave dazzled audiences in her wake.