I've been bluntly critical of Sarah Palin before when I felt it warranted, but I've never had anything but respect for her formidable intellect and political saavy. I think she's easily the most credible challenger to President Obama in 2012 and while I still think Obama would prevail, he's in for a tough fight if the GOP nominates her. Which it most likely will, given that Palinmania is evolving into the litmus test for party loyalty. Her folksy facade is as much a manufactured image as was Fred Thompson's, and she knows how to tap into the populist anger. Recall she was seeding Obama hatred at McCain-Palin campaign rallies long before Tea Parties bearing racist and Nazi signs descended upon Capitol Hill to chant their hatred and frustrations.
But as I said, she's brilliant, and her speech in Hong Kong last week is ample evidence - she's coined the next great incantation of conservatism with which to rally conservatives to the worn Republican banner again: "common sense conservatism." It's far more faithful to conservatism's spirit than "compassionate conservatism" ever was. But more to the point, she actually embodies it - it's not just a cynical catchphrase but a genuine worldview. A worldview I disagree with, but which is not hypocritical or internally inconsistent. She is an effective and compelling advocate for her point of view in this speech, which probably reads better than it sounds.
There are two things that stand out in this speech to me. The first is her emphasis on China, which dominates the word cloud, which only makes sense given she delivered the speech at the CLSA Pacific Markets Conference (which as you might suspect has China on the brain). She focused on China as an emerging power, and the ambiguity (daresay, inscrutability?) of its intentions: (CONTINUES HERE)