It’s not every day that people in America’s heartland hear “Redneck Woman” Gretchen Wilson sing Heart’s “Barracuda” to Sarah Palin.
On Saturday, nearly 5,000 people in Tulsa attended Glenn Beck’s and country singer John Rich’s kickoff of the “Taking Our Country Back” tour.
The three-and-a-half hour show featured Beck with his chalkboard and Palin with daughter Piper in tow heralding what’s wrong with America. The consensus? Washington.
“We are going to be remembered as a country so riddled with debt,” Beck, wearing a homey blue-and-white checked shirt and jeans, said. “People thought magic pixies would come down in the likeness of Tim Geithner and everything would be okay.”
One woman continually screamed, “I love you, Glenn!”
“You’re a Godsend today,” the talk-show host said to the crowd.
Beck may be a celebrity. But Palin is a superstar and a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
Oklahoma 2010 candidates worked their connections all morning to weave their way backstage for a Palin photo op.
“It’s good for fundraising,” said one state senator.
For all of Beck’s lecturing about the country’s founding fathers, the crowd craved Palin. Floor seats for the event cost about $150. As one woman said, “It’s not too much for me to see Sarah.”
The crowd jumped to its feet when Rich, who performed at the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis, introduced Palin. She walked across the stage in a sleek black coat with silver sequins edging the bottom and jeans and stood in front of a translucent podium.
“Oklahoma, do you love your freedom?” Palin asked.
Palin told the crowd about John McCain’s campaign staffers’ often low spirits. She thought they needed a pick-me-up. The answer: Gretchen Wilson. So she hit the campaign trail along with Rich, who sang the political anthem “Raisin’ McCain.”
The first thing that must occur in the United States, says Palin, is to boost the economy. She chided President Barack Obama, Senator Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for their borrowing, spending and taxing.
“They keep digging this big dark hole,” she said. “That’s generational theft. It makes us less secure and less free. I don’t know about you but that ticks me off.”
In her Oklahoma speech, Palin was less fiery than in more recent ones including a February event Little Rock, Ark. – her first at a political fundraiser.
She quoted Reagan’s “less government, more common sense” approach frequently to applause.
“He did not apologize for America,” she said.
She encouraged Washington to look at Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” Ryan, a rising star, could be competition for Palin in two years. He has been touted in some conservative circles as a possible presidential candidate.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying no to President Obama,” she said about Ryan.
Palin enjoys dueling with her critics. She’s sarcastic. She’s cute. And the crowd eats it up.
“I write it [notes] on the palm of my hand and I wish Washington would tattoo it across their forehead,” she said. “I got busted for using the poor man’s version of the teleprompter.”
Three things she wants Washington to understand: tax cuts, energy independence and lifting America’s spirits.
She loves to scold nemesis Obama, too: “No, thank you, Mr. President, you can keep that change.”
At the end of Palin’s speech, Rich asked the former vice presidential candidate to remain on stage during a tribute to Oklahoma’s fallen veterans. She watched a screen scroll the names as a former American Idol contestant sang Mariah Carey’s “Hero.”
After the tribute, Rich sang “The Good Lord and The Man” while Palin clapped her hands and introduced herself to the band’s fiddle player. Piper Palin joined her mother on stage and held her hand.
When the song ended, Palin grabbed the hand of a grieving mother who lost her son in Iraq last year and walked off stage with her. And she didn’t leave after her speech. During Rich and Wilson’s set, Palin stood slightly off stage enjoying the show while the nearby crowd snapped photos with their cell phones, especially during “Barracuda.”
In her speech, Palin said that America needs to hang on until November. But the Palin fans can’t wait until 2012. When her black SUV rolled out of the convention center with police escort, about 50 admirers – many holding her best-selling book – waved good-bye to her.
“We need Sarah Palin,” one woman said to another.
“Amen,” she said.