WASHINGTON -- Before an adoring crowd of religious conservatives, Sarah Palin mocked recent scandals swirling around the Obama administration, performing her own version of a "Saturday Night Live" parody.
"They have this skit where they do this fake newscast, and they read this completely absurd news report and finish it with an incredulous 'Really?' " Palin told the audience Saturday afternoon at the JW Marriott in downtown Washington. "As in, our government spied on every single one of your phone calls but it couldn't find two pot-smoking, deadbeat Bostonians with a hotline to Terrorist Central in Chechnya.
"The IRS says it can't figure out how it managed to spend more than $4 million on training conferences because it didn't keep its receipts," she said to uproarious laughter. "Really?"
"We're gathering in a town that is awash in scandal," said Palin, the closing speaker at the annual meeting of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. "In other words, just another Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C."
The Faith and Freedom Coalition, a 501(c)(4) organization, was founded in 2009 by Ralph Reed as a way to join together tea party activists and religious conservatives. The theme of the three-day conference was "Road to Majority" and featured a lineup of conservatives from Sen. Marco Rubio to Grover Norquist to Herman Cain.
Palin criticized Obama's leadership, including his foreign policy efforts, and argued that the United States should not intervene in Syria but instead "let Allah sort it out."
"Where is our commander in chief?" she said. "We're talking now more new interventions. I say until we know what we're doing, until we have a commander and chief who knows what he's doing, well, let these radical Islamic countries who aren't even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, 'Allah Akbar,' I say until we have someone who knows what they're doing, I say let Allah sort it out."
The line drew laughter from the audience.
Speaker after speaker offered strategies for conservatives to win control of Congress and the White House.
Cain, the former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza who cut short his bid for the GOP nomination after he was accused of sexual harassment and having an extramarital affair, said he had a formula for winning. "ETA," said Cain, with the flair of a man who became known for his "9-9-9" tax plan. He said the phrase was shorthand for "enthusiasm, targeted races and activists."
Conservatives need to target races and cultivate fresh faces, he said. "We have got to stop sending nearly 90 percent of the people in D.C. back to D.C.," said Cain, who has a radio talk show. "We should expand what we've already been doing. Create a groundswell of activists and citizens and patriots."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another former Republican presidential candidate, told the conference that conservative activists have "a long way to go" to make an impact on national politics and advised them to shift their tone.
"We stand for the principles that made America great," Perry said. "We should exude those principles with joy. Smile when you disagree with a liberal. As Ronald Reagan said, liberals know so much that isn't so. Our conservative convictions will win this country back if our tone shows we're comfortable with our own ideals."
Among the speakers who brought attendees to their feet was E.W. Jackson, a Chesapeake minister who was a virtual political unknown until a month ago, when he clinched the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor of Virginia. Since then, liberals and some national GOP figures have bemoaned controversial Jackson comments, including his belief that Planned Parenthood has harmed black Americans more than the Ku Klux Klan and that gays and lesbians are "very sick people."
Jackson offered a fiery 10 minutes on how the left is assaulting religious freedom and trying to redefine liberty.
"Freedom doesn't mean 'Do whatever you want.' It's the pursuit of character, integrity, decency, honor. Now we're being told freedom is license," he said.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, had harsh words for some GOP leaders who have blamed far right candidates for the party's recent national losses.
"To our Republican leadership, you don't marginalize, discredit and dismiss everyday, hardworking Americans," she said. She urged tea party activists to keep at it. "Start on a local level affecting change, as you work on the higher levels of politicos," she said. "Or do both. Just do both."
Americans need to "rededicate" the country to "our one true heavenly Father," said Palin, who is writing a book about faith and Christmas and returns to the airwaves Monday as part of the "Fox & Friends" program on Fox News. "If we rededicate our land to our Lord, things will turn around."
By LYNDSEY LAYTON
The Washington Post