When Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump on Tuesday, the result can only be described as Palinesque. The rambling speech included both a call to "kick ISIS’s ass" and a reference to her audience as "right wingin’, bitter clingin’, proud clingers."
Palin’s remarks also show the kinship she and Trump share as candidates who are primarily anti-establishment and who rejoice in irritating Republican elites.
Here's the full speech, annotated to put Palin's references, positions, and policies in context.
Thank you so much. It’s so great to be here in Iowa. We’re here just thawing out. Todd and I and a couple of our friends here from Alaska, lending our support for the next president of our great United States of America, Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Trump, you’re right, look back there in the press box. Heads are spinning, media heads are spinning. This is going to be so much fun1.
Palin likes to point to the press both rhetorically and literally. Urging the crowd to turn and boo the press box became a hallmark of her 2008 vice presidential stump speech. And her words here point to another similarity with Trump — they both benefit from the very press they like to mock.
Are you ready to make America great again? We all have a part in this. We all have a responsibility. Looking around at all of you, you hard-working Iowa families. You farm families, and teachers, and teamsters, and cops, and cooks. You rock 'n’ rollers. And holy rollers! All of you who work so hard. You full-time moms. You with the hands that rock the cradle. You all make the world go round, and now our cause is one.
When asked why I would jump into a primary — kind of stirring it up a little bit maybe — and choose one over some friends who are running and I’ve endorsed a couple others in their races before they decided to run for president2, I was told left and right, "you are going to get so clobbered in the press. You are just going to get beat up, and chewed up, and spit out."
Palin endorsed Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Carly Fiorina in their Senate races in 2010.
You know, I’m thinking, "and?" You know, like you guys haven’t tried to do that every day since that night in ‘08, when I was on stage nominated for VP, and I got to say, "yeah, I’ll go, send me, you betcha. I’ll serve."
And, like you all, I’m still standing. So those of us who’ve kind of gone through the wringer as Mr. Trump has, makes me respect you even more. That you’re here, and you’re putting your efforts, and you’re putting reputations, you’re putting relationships on the line to do the right thing for this country. Because you are ready to make America great again.
Well, I am here because like you I know that it is now or never. I’m in it to win it because we believe in America, and we love our freedom. And if you love your freedom, thank a vet.
Thank a vet, and know that the United States military deserves a commander-in-chief who loves our country passionately, and will never apologize for this country. A new commander-in-chief who will never leave our men behind. A new commander-in-chief, one who will never lie to the families of the fallen.3
This is a reference to the Benghazi attacks. Kate Quigley, the sister of a CIA operative killed in the attack, says Hillary Clinton told the families of the dead that the attacks were motivated by an anti-Muslim video, even though Clinton knew this was not true. Clinton denies she ever said this.
I’m in it, because just last week we’re watching our sailors suffer and be humiliated on a world stage at the hands of Iranian captors in violation of international law, because a weak-kneed, capitulator-in-chief has decided America will lead from behind.
And he, who would negotiate, deals kind of with the skills of a community organizer maybe organizing a neighborhood tea, well, he deciding that, "No, America would apologize as part of the deal," as the enemy sends a message to the rest of the world that they capture and we kowtow, and we apologize, and then, we bend over and say, "Thank you, enemy."4
The US did not apologize for the ship incident. One of the sailors, while he was detained, did apologize for crossing into Iranian waters, but there's no indication he was directed to do so.
We are ready for a change. We are ready and our troops deserve the best. A new commander-in-chief whose track record of success has proven he is the master at the art of the deal. He is one who would know to negotiate.
Only one candidate’s record of success proves he is the master of the art of the deal. He is beholden to no one but we the people, how refreshing. He is perfectly positioned to let you make America great again. Are you ready for that, Iowa?
No more pussy footin’ around! Our troops deserve the best, you deserve the best!
He is from the private sector — not a politician. Can I get a "Hallelujah!"5 Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets6 in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing. And he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.
Palin may sing the praises of Trump as a non-politician, but she has spent virtually her whole career in politics, starting with her election to the Wasilla, Alaska, city council in 1992.
Four of Trump's businesses have filed for bankruptcy, and Trump argues this was a smart business decision. In each case — Politifact has a good overview — the business had accumulated significant debt. Clearly you don't always have to balance a budget in the private sector.
So troops, hang in there, because help’s on the way because he, better than anyone, isn’t he known for being able to command, fire! Are you ready for a commander-in-chief, you ready for a commander-in-chief who will let our warriors do their job and go kick ISIS ass?
Ready for someone who will secure our borders, to secure our jobs, and to secure our homes? Ready to make America great again. Are you ready to stump for Trump? I’m here to support the next president of the United States, Donald Trump.
Now, eight years ago, I warned that Obama’s promised fundamental transformation of America. That it was going to take more from you, and leave America weaker on the world stage. And that we would soon be unrecognizable.
Well, it’s the one promise that Obama kept. But he didn’t do it alone, and this is important to remember, especially those of you, like me, a member of the GOP, this is what we have to remember, in this very contested, competitive, great primary race.
Trump’s candidacy, it has exposed not just that tragic, the ramifications of that betrayal of the transformation of our country, but too, he has exposed the complicity on both sides of the aisle that has enabled it, okay?7
Palin's argument in favor of Trump is that he is an antidote to the permanent political establishment, and that a true "conservative" is someone who is willing to go against that establishment. In this narrative, the establishment Republican resistance to Trump is proof of their venality.
Well, Trump, what he’s been able to do, which is really ticking people off, which I’m glad about, he’s going rogue left and right, man, that’s why he’s doing so well. He’s been able to tear the veil off this idea of the system.8
Palin is crowning Trump as her successor, with a phrase that indicates the glee she takes in provoking the Republican establishment that Trump also rankles. An irritated John McCain aide said Palin was "going rogue" when she went off message in the days leading up to the 2008 election. Palin seized the comment as the foundation of her post-election image, even making it the title of her memoir.
The way that the system really works, and please hear me on this, I want you guys to understand more and more how the system, the establishment, works, and has gotten us into the troubles that we are in in America.
The permanent political class has been doing the bidding of their campaign donor class, 9 and that's why you see that the borders are kept open. For them, for their cheap labor that they want to come in.10 That’s why they’ve been bloating budgets. It’s for crony capitalists to be able to suck off of 'em. It’s why we see these lousy trade deals11 that gut our industry for special interests elsewhere.
This is the heart of Palin's argument, which is intriguingly similar to part of Bernie Sanders's critique of American politics — that big money in politics corrupts democracy. Sanders's solution is campaign finance reform, while Palin's is Trump.
This, though, seems to be evidence against Sanders's theory, and apparently Palin's; immigration reform is a huge priority for the business community that hasn't been realized.
Palin is echoing Trump here on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and highlighting another division between conservative culture and ideology — a gap between the traditionally free-trade Republican establishment and the more protectionist conservative base.
We need someone new, who has the power, and is in the position to bust up that establishment to make things great again. It’s part of the problem.
His candidacy, which is a movement, it’s a force, it’s a strategy. It proves — as long as the politicos, they get to keep their titles, and their perks, and their media ratings, they don’t really care who wins elections. Believe me on this.
And the proof of this? Look what’s happening today. Our own GOP machine, the establishment, they who would assemble the political landscape, they’re attacking their own frontrunner. Now would the Left ever, would the DNC ever come after their frontrunner and her supporters? No because they don’t eat their own, they don’t self-destruct.
But for the GOP establishment to be coming after Donald Trump’s supporters even, with accusations that are so false. They are so busted, the way that this thing works. We, you, a diverse, dynamic, needed support base that they would attack.
And now, some of them even whispering, they’re ready to throw in for Hillary over Trump because they can’t afford to see the status quo go.12 Otherwise, they won’t be able to be slurping off the gravy train that’s been feeding them all these years. They don’t want that to end.
Palin seems to be referring to a report in the Hill in late November that four powerful West Coast Republican donors, possibly jokingly, said they'd vote for Hillary over Trump.
"Well, and then, funny, ha ha, not funny, but now, what they’re doing is wailing, "well, Trump and uh, uh, his Trumpeters,13 they’re not conservative enough." Oh my goodness gracious. What the heck would the establishment know about conservatism?
This seems to be the first usage of "Trumpeters" to refer to Trump supporters, who are more often called "Trumpers."
Tell me, is this conservative? GOP majorities handing Obama a blank check to fund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood and illegal immigration that competes for your jobs, and turning safety nets into hammocks,14 and all these new Democrat voters that are going to be coming on over the border as we keep the borders open,15 and bequeathing our children millions in new debt, and refusing to fight back for our solvency and our sovereignty, even though that’s why we elected them and sent them as a majority to DC.
While she rails against House Republicans, Palin is using a quote from now-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency," Ryan said in 2012.
Like much of Palin's and Trump's immigration rhetoric, this plays both on fears of unauthorized immigration, and on immigration in general. It invokes the idea (popular among opponents of comprehensive immigration reform) that Democrats only support giving citizenship to unauthorized immigrants because they want to create more Democratic voters. But it also speaks to a deeper concern about America's changing demographics. As the nonwhite population grows, many white Americans are worried the country's traditional culture will be transformed into something unfamiliar. Since nonwhite voters are part of the Democratic base, they worry about America being pulled to the left — politically transformed — as well.
No! If they’re not willing to do that, then how are they to tell us that we’re not "conservative enough" in order to be able to make these changes in America that we know need to be made. Now they’re concerned about this ideological purity? Give me a break!16 Who are they to say that?
Palin is offering her own definition of "conservative" here — an anti-establishment conservatism where the kind of dealmaking that averted a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood and Obama's immigration orders is anathema. She's also rejecting much of the Republican Party's actual governing apparatus in favor of a cultural outsider conservatism.
Oh tell somebody like, Phyllis Schlafly, she is the Republican, conservative movement icon and hero and a Trump supporter17. Tell her she’s not conservative. How ‘bout the rest of us? Right wingin’, bitter clingin’, proud clingers of our guns, our god, and our religions, and our Constitution.18Tell us that we’re not red enough? Yeah, coming from the establishment. Right.
Phyllis Schlafly in 1964 wrote A Choice Not An Echo, a pro-Barry Goldwater book that railed against the Republican "kingmakers" who would deny him the nomination — an argument echoed in Palin's broadsides against establishment politicians.
Palin is remixing Obama's infamous remark at a San Francisco fundraiser about small-town Pennsylvanians. The rest of Obama's quote isn't as well-known, but it's pertinent: They cling not just to guns and religion, Obama said, but to "antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment." That's the coalition Palin is appealing to throughout the speech — although she vehemently opposes Obama's explanation for their values.
Well, he being the only one who’s been willing, he’s got the guts to wear the issues that need to be spoken about and debate on his sleeve, where the rest of some of these establishment candidates, they just wanted to duck and hide. They didn’t want to talk about these issue til he brought ‘em up.
In fact, they’ve been wearing this political correctness kind of like a suicide vest.
And enough is enough. These issues that Donald Trump talks about had to be debated. And he brought them to the forefront. And that’s why we are where we are today with good discussion. A good, heated, and very competitive primary is where we are. And now, though, to be lectured that, "Well, you guys are all sounding kind of angry," is what we’re hearing from the establishment.
Doggone right we’re angry! Justifiably so! Yes!19
Palin, like Trump, is accepting the mantle of anger. His anger, expressed more colorfully and authentically than even the most anti-establishment of politicians, is the source of his popularity. Trump expresses his anger in New York colloquialisms, and Palin does so in folksy ones, but the basic message is the same: You're not wrong to be angry, and we're angry too.
You know, they stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, "Just chill, okay, just, just relax." Well, look, um, we are mad, and we’ve been had. They need to get used to it.
This election is more than just your basic ABCs — anybody but Clinton. It’s more than that this go-around. When we’re talking about a nation without borders, when we’re talking about bankruptcies in our federal government, debt that our children and our grandchildren, they’ll never be able to pay off.
When we’re talking about no more Reaganesque power that comes from strength. Power through strength. Well, then, we’re talking about our very existence, so no, we’re not going to chill. In fact it’s time to drill, baby, drill down,20 and hold these folks accountable.
In October 2008, Amy Poehler rapped as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. The rap included this couplet: "In Wasilla we just chill baby chilla / But when I see oil let's drill baby drill." There's no real significance to this line in the speech, but it does show Palin's self-presentation adheres so closely to her brand that she can sometimes echo parodies of herself.
And we need to stop the self-sabotage and elect new and independent, a candidate who represents that and represents America first, finally. Pro-Constitution, common-sense solutions, that he brings to the table.
Yes, the status quo has got to go. Otherwise we’re just going to get more of the same, and with their failed agenda, it can’t be salvaged. It must be savaged. And Donald Trump is the right one to do that.
Are you ready for new? And are you ready for the leader who will let you make America great again? It’s gonna take a whole team. It’s gonna take a whole team. Fighters, all of us, in the private sector. Fighters in the House and the Senate. So, our friends, who are fighters in the House and the Senate today, they need to stay there and help out. They can help our new leader in the positions that they are in.
"Let me say something really positive about one of those individuals: Rand Paul. I’m going to tell you about that libertarian streak in him that is healthy, because he knows, you only go to war if you’re determined to win the war!21
This is not how Rand Paul describes his foreign policy beliefs. In a landmark speech in 2014, Paul put it this way: "War is necessary when America is attacked or threatened, when vital American interests are attacked and threatened, and when we have exhausted all other measures short of war."
And you quit footin’ the bill for these nations who are oil-rich, we’re paying for some of their squirmishes that have been going on for centuries.22 Where they’re fightin’ each other and yellin’ "Allah Akbar" calling Jihad on each other’s heads for ever and ever. Like I’ve said before, let them duke it out and let Allah sort it out.
Palin, in her own unique way, is talking about the idea that Middle Eastern divisions are driven by "ancient hatreds." This is a popular belief, even among Democrats, but it's also factually wrong. The Sunni-Shia conflict today stems from events after 1979.
We’ll fight for American interests, and as Donald Trump has said, other nations where we have been footin’ the bill, but we haven’t prioritized our own domestic budgets well enough to be able to afford what we’re doing overseas. Things are gonna change under President Trump.
So it can be an unbeatable team with fighters there in the House and the Senate. Yeah, our leader is a little bit different. He’s a multi-billionaire. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, it’s amazing, he is not elitist at all.
Oh, I just hope you all get to know him more and more as a person, and a family man. What he’s been able to accomplish, with his um, it’s kind of this quiet generosity.23 Yeah, maybe his largess, kind of, I don’t know, some would say gets in the way of that quiet generosity, and, uh, his compassion, but if you know him as a person and you’ll get to know him more and more, you’ll have even more respect.
Trump claims he's donated $102 million in land and cash over the past five years. But the Associated Press investigated and found that proof of those donations is hard to track down. Most of his foundation's giving was done with other people's money, the report found, and focused on causes led by other celebrities. "Even the $102 million would not impress the wealthy elite whom Trump counts as his peers," the AP noted, pointing out that other billionaires are much more generous.
Not just for his record of success, and the good intentions for America, but who he is as a person. He’s not an elitist. And yes, as a multi-billionaire, we still root him on, because he roots us on. And he has, he’s spent his life with the workin’ man. And he tells us Joe Six-Packs, he said, "You know, I’ve worked very, very hard. And I’ve succeeded. Yuuuugely I’ve succeeded," he says. And he says, "I want you to succeed too."
And that is refreshing, because he, as he builds things, he builds big things, things that touch the sky, big infrastructure that puts other people to work. He has spent his life looking up and respecting the hard-hats and the steel-toed boots and the work ethic that you all have within you.24 He, being an optimist, passionate about equal opportunity to work.
The key industries in Trump's empire — construction and hospitality — are the ones most dominated by unauthorized immigrant workers. Reporters have found plenty of unauthorized immigrants building and working in Trump hotels throughout his career. Even if Trump himself hires more native-born Americans than most developers and hoteliers — and there isn't evidence he does —that's still a lot of immigrants working for him.
The self-made success of his, you know that he doesn’t get his power, his high, off of opium — Other People's Money — like a lot of dopes in Washington do. They’re addicted to OPM, where they take other people’s money, and then their high is getting to redistribute it, right? And then they get to be really popular people when they get to give out your hard-earned money.
Well, he doesn’t do that. His power, his passion, is the fabric of America. And it’s woven by work ethic and dreams and drive and faith in the Almighty, what a combination.
Are you ready to share in that again, Iowa? Because that’s what’s going to let you make America great again. He’s going to be able to empower you to look out for one another again instead of relying on a bankrupt government to supposedly be looking out for you. No, and I think you’re ready for that.
And Iowa, I believe too that you’re ready to see that our vets are treated better than illegal immigrants are treated in this country. And you’re ready for the tax reform he talks about to open up Main Street again.
And you’re ready to stop the race-baiting and the division based on color and zip code, to unify around the right issues. The issues important to me, or I wouldn’t be endorsing him. Pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, strict constitutionality.
Those things that are unifying values and there're time-tested truths involved. These are unifying values from big cities to tiny towns, from big mountain states and the Big Apple,25 to the big, beautiful heartland that’s in between.
New York values, indeed.
Now, finally friends, I want you to try to picture this, it’s a nice thing to picture. Exactly one year from tomorrow, former President Barack Obama. He packs up the teleprompters and the selfie sticks, and the Greek columns26, and all that hopey-changey stuff and he heads on back to Chicago, where I’m sure he can find some community there to organize again.
At this point in the speech, Palin's bringing up conservative criticisms from almost eight years ago — such as the mocking of the set for Obama's convention speech when he was nominated for president. It's a reminder that she hasn't been a big player in conservative politics recently.
There, he can finally look up, President Obama will be able to look up, and there, over his head, he’ll be able to see that shining, towering, Trump tower. Yes, Barack, he built that,27 and that says a lot.
Another callback, this one to 2012 and "you didn't build that" — when Obama's remarks about entrepreneurs owing something to society led to a backlash so fierce that the Republicans made it the subject of their convention.
Iowa, you say a lot, being here tonight, supporting the right man who will allow you to make America great again.
God bless you! God bless the United States of America and our next president of the United States, Donald J. Trump!"
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