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Palin takes on Obama at SRLC

From NBC's Mark Murray
NEW ORLEANS -- Around the very same time that President Obama spoke at the White House to comment on Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens' retirement, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took the stage here at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference to once again criticize his presidency.

Close to the outset of her remarks, she responded to Obama dismissing her recent criticism about the administration's new nuclear policy. "Last I checked, Sarah Palin's not much of an expert on nuclear issues," the president told ABC.

Palin interjected during her speech: "The president with the vast nuclear experience he acquired," she said sarcastically, pronouncing "nuclear" "nuk-cue-lar."

She also took a dig at Obama's "Yes we can" campaign theme. "Yes we can -- spread the wealth around," she said. "Yes we can -- spend money that we do not have on programs we do not" need.

Palin criticized Obama on foreign policy, too -- arguing, as conservative commentator Liz Cheney did the night before, that his administration shunned Afghanistan President Karzai (even though Karzai threatened to join the Taliban). "They treated the Afghan President Karzai poorly, and they faked surprise when he reacted in kind."

Moreover, she called to "repeal and replace" the new health-care law. And she said: "Don't retreat, reload," adding that the phrase "is not a call for violence."

Palin recycled many of the lines and jokes she's given over the last two months. "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for you?" she asked. "We are the party of HELL NO!" she later said. And Palin read off the palm of her hand, once again calling it the world's oldest teleprompter.

But she devoted most of her speech to criticizing the Obama administration's energy policy -- issue terrain on which the former Alaska governor feels most comfortable. In particular, she said that the president's recent announcement to lift restrictions on offshore drilling in some places -- but not all -- didn't go far enough. "Let's drill, baby, drill. Not stall, baby, stall." She added, "We need to give it all we've got. Drill here and drill now." 

Toward the end of her speech, Palin said, "There is nothing stopping us from achieving energy independence that a good ol'-fashioned election can't fix."

As a sign of how highly anticipated Palin's speech was, SRLC attendees lined up earlier this morning to enter the ballroom. And when the doors were finally opened -- about an hour and a half before Palin's speech -- those attendees rushed into the hall to claim seats near the front of the stage.

During her speech, one man shouted, "Run, Sarah, run." And after she finished her remarks, the audience chanted, "Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!"

Palin also was the first SRLC speaker to refer to Hurricane Katrina, which crashed into New Orleans in 2005, by noting how the city has rebuilt itself since the hurricane.