Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin re-emerged into the national spotlight to level a blistering rebuke of both President Barack Obama and the Republican establishment, calling upon a friendly conservative audience to "stop preaching to the choir."
Amid the Republican soul-searching on display at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, the onetime GOP vice presidential nominee issued her prescription: "Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home, and toss the political scripts," Palin said, "because If we truly know what we believe, we don't need professionals to tell us."
Palin's speech — the first major appearance she's made following the presidential election and her expired contract as a television analysts — was equally critical of Democrats and the Obama administration. Her remarks were a tour de force of conservative memes about Obama, dinging him on everything from his golfing to the canceled White House tours taking place under sequestration.
"Dandy idea, Mr. President — should've started with yours!" Palin said of the proposed expansion of background checks for gun purchases, earning her loud cheers from the conservative faithful in attendance.
Alleging Obama of conducting a "permanent campaign," Palin said at another point: "Mr. President, we admit it, you won — now step away from the teleprompter, and do your job!"
Palin's speech was familiar for its folksiness (or kitsch) that helped her build a national profile following her stint as John McCain's running mate in 2008. She drank from a Big Gulp at one point during her speech — an allusion to the ban on large soft drinks sought by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. And she joked of her Christmas present to her husband, Todd: "He's got the rifle, I've got the rack."
That kind of signature style by Palin helped fuel the rise of the Tea Party movement, which earned her the enmity of liberals and the love of dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. But despite stoking speculation about her eventual career prospects, Palin opted against seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2012. The months following the election saw Fox News opt against renewing her contract as a contributor, putting the former Alaska governor on as uncertain footing as ever entering today's speech to CPAC, her second before the major conservative gathering.
She used her platform on Saturday to deliver a lashing of the Republican establishment, characterizing the party's elected leaders and the consultants who support them as being "too calculating."
"They talk about rebuilding the party? How about rebuilding the middle class? They talk about rebranding the GOP, instead of restoring the trust of the American people," she said. "We're not here to dedicate ourselves to new talking points coming from D.C. We're not here to put a fresh coat of rhetorical paint on our party."
Palin's rebuke comes as the GOP's official instruments of power conduct their own autopsy of last year's unsuccessful election, and as conservatives this week offered their own ideas as to how to reinvigorate their movement.
Some Republicans, for instance, argued to CPAC this week that immigration reform would help repair an electoral slide with Latino voters, an increasingly important electoral bloc whose growing support for Democrats threatens to marginalize the GOP. That won polite reception, but far from exuberant support.
And the Republican National Committee on Monday will release its own official report on how to improve the party's infrastructure heading into the elections in 2014 and 2016. New conservative super PACs have arisen, too, to support Republican primary candidates regarded as more electable in general elections than some of their more conservative foes.
"The last thing we need is Washington, D.C. vetting our candidates," she said.