The tea party movement started as a welcome protest against the alarming growth of federal spending and federal control. It had a strong anti-statist flavor, or seemed to. But judging from the applause for Sarah Palin at its convention, the movement's suspicion of government power is exceeded only by its worship of government power.
Her keynote address at last week's gathering in Nashville may have been the curtain raiser on a 2012 presidential campaign. "I think that it would be absurd to not consider what it is that I can potentially do to help our country," she told Fox News when asked about that option.
I'm glad it was she and not I who first used the word "absurd" in relation to a possible Palin bid for the White House. Because if her speech made anything clear, it's that the shallow, ill-informed, truth-twisting demagogue seen in the 2008 presidential campaign is all she is and all she wants to be.
When it comes to economic affairs, the tea partiers agree that -- as Palin put it -- "the government that governs least, governs best." When it comes to war and national security, however, her audience apparently thinks there is no such thing as too much government.
The conventioneers applauded when Palin denounced Obama for his approach to the war on terrorists. Why? Because he lets himself be too confined by the annoying limits imposed by the Constitution. "To win that war, we need a commander in chief, not a professor of law," she declares.
Is her point that Obama is allergic to the use of military power or can't bear to fulfill his responsibility as head of the armed forces? That would come as a surprise to Iraqis, who have seen Obama stick to President Bush's timetable for withdrawal.
It would come as a surprise to Afghans, who have seen him embark on a massive buildup of U.S. troops in their country. It would come as a surprise to Pakistanis, who have seen an increase in U.S. drone missile attacks on their soil.
Palin accuses Obama of "reaching out to hostile regimes" and "apologizing for America," with pitiful results: nuclear tests in North Korea, repression in Iran. What she doesn't mention -- though, to be entirely fair, she may not know it -- is that the first North Korean nuclear test came in 2006 and that before Obama arrived, the mullahs in Tehran did not rule with a gentle, loving hand.