Sarah Palin has left the building



Like her or loathe her, there are three facts about Sarah Palin and her appearance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference: she was the first speaker at the dais (that I heard) to actually mention the word "Katrina"; she has, in person, the same charisma of a Barack Obama; and she had the words GEAUX SAINTS on her palm in ballpoint.

When she entered the ballroom of the Riverside Hilton, the 3,000 or so people packed elbow-to-elbow in their banquet room chairs visibly stiffened; she brings an itchy electricity in her wake, a sort of restlessness that's reflected in her speech, which is relentlessly upbeat but sort of lurches from topic to topic without transitions.

Much of her speech was about America's energy policy, with some sideswipes at Obama and Washington in general, but it was the famous zingers that got the SRLC crowd whipped up, some of them shaking their heads in wonder at her command of the room:

"The president, with all the vast nuculur experience he acquired as a community organizer ... " Big laughs.

"Don't retreat, reload!" Standing ovation.

"The Left has decided what they think is best for so many of us." Applause and nods.

"God forbid you put a wind turbine in the middle of the desert... someone may see it, or a gecko may bump into it." Whoops from the crowd.

"None of this snake-oil science based on this global warming, Gore-gate stuff ..." Cheers.

"Shoot, look at Texas. Oh, shoot, I said shoot." Belly laughs.

What did all these slogans and one-liners add up to? To her fans, everything, to her detractors, absolutely nothing.



After the speech, Palin was led out of a side entrance of the Hilton by a phalanx of at least seven state police and two burly bodyguards. The small crowd that had gotten wind of her exit and had gathered, stage-door like, by the driveway, gasped and then began to scream, thrusting out copies of Palin's Going Rogue, snapping cellphone pictures, pleading for autographs and, in one case, handing her a nosegay of pink and white tea roses.

"She's here! Right in front of me!" screamed one woman into her phone.

Palin smiled, waved, ignored questions, signed a couple of books, was whisked into a waiting black SUV, and was gone.

"A rock star," said a man who looked to be in his seventies. "That's what she is. A rock star."

Back in the ballroom, Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg said "I saw Jindal arrive. He had two sheriff's escorts. Palin had seven. Can you believe that?"


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