Before a crowd of thousands at the Asheville Civic Center arena Sunday night, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, said that she and Sen. John McCain would cut taxes and attacked Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama as “Barack the wealth-spreader.”
Palin summed up the campaign’s agenda as, “If you are ready to shake up Washington, clean up Wall Street, to get our economy on track, to win the war against the terrorists, then North Carolina, we are asking for your vote.”
To applause, she asserted that “On Nov. 4, it doesn’t sound like a whole lot of you are going to be supporting Barack the wealth-spreader. Not his plan, because you understand that his plan to redistribute wealth would punish hard work, it would discourage productivity and would stifle the entrepreneurial spirit that made this country the greatest country on earth. Our opponent’s plan doesn’t get it: bigger government is the problem. Instead of taking your money and spreading it, John McCain and I want you to keep more of it so we can help you spread opportunity.”
Obama’s proposed plan would cut taxes (or give tax credits) to Americans making under $150,000, while raising taxes on those making over $250,000 back to the levels they were in the 1990s. McCain would simply cut taxes (including corporate taxes), with those making more money getting a larger cut.
According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, most Americans would see their after-tax income rise between one-half to 2 percent under McCain’s plan, while those in the top fifth, income-wise, would see a 6 percent increase, with the top 1 percent seeing an 8 percent increase. Under Obama’s plan, most Americans would see their after-tax income rise from just under 2 to just under 6 percent, with lower income brackets seeing more of an increase. Under this plan, the top fifth would pay 2 percent more in taxes, while the top 1 percent would pay just under 11 percent more.
Palin took the stage after an introduction from Sen. Richard Burr. She received an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd and asked county artist Gretchen Wilson, who’d played a musical set earlier, to perform “I’m a Redneck Woman” and join the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Palin’s mother via a cell phone that Palin held onstage.
Then, it was on with the speech. Palin attacked Obama as presumptuous for being optimistic about his campaigns chances and said the fight for the White House is far from over. Polls show the race tight in North Carolina.
“Elections are not decided until votes are counted, but our opponent once again seems to be getting out ahead of himself,” she said. “Just yesterday, the New York Times reported that Barack Obama’s inaugural address is already written.”
The crowd booed loudly — one of many times it did so when Obama was referenced — and one man shouted “flush it!” (Numerous attendees toted small toilet plungers, in reference to the “Joe the Plumber” theme.) She continued: “You get the feeling the Obama campaign thinks this election is just a formality. They’ve overlooked one detail: the confidence and trust they’d have to earn before you vote for them. I know by judging from the media coverage the coronation has already been set. But as for me and John McCain, we don’t take any vote for granted — we’re respectfully asking you for it.”
The Times article reported that the head of Obama’s transition team, John Podesta “has already written a draft Inaugural Address for Mr. Obama, which he published this summer in a book called The Power of Progress.” However, the address in the book is for a hypothetical progressive president. The Obama campaign has called the claim that there’s already a written inaugural address “completely false.” When Podesta submitted the book to publishers in March, Obama was not yet the Democratic nominee, and Podesta was working for the campaign of his rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Many in the crowd stood for hours in a line that wrapped around the block.
Brenda Harris drove an hour from Chesnee, S.C., to attend the rally. Standing outside in the line that snaked around downtown before the event, she expressed full support of Palin. “We’re very proud of Palin, and think she’s very qualified. She set a great example in Alaska.” Asked what she thought the consequences of an Obama victory could be, she said: “I fear for an attack on our country from the outside. I think that Obama will sell us out to those who hate us.”
Pan Perkins, from Hendersonville, was standing across the street from the Civic Center with a crowd of pro-Obama demonstrators that grew as the afternoon wore on. Waving a sign that read “Working Families for Obama,” she said she was attending “with some of my friends with the postal-workers’ union, and to show my support and impress people to vote early. She said she’s helped register hundreds of new voters this year, and that she believes North Carolina is in Obama’s camp. “I feel real strong,” she said. “I think we’ve got the momentum and that we’re on the way to victory.”
Asheville resident John McKewn, enthusiastically waving an Obama/Biden sign, said “we’re not necessarily against the other people, we just want them to open their eyes before reality.”
On the arena floor, Joy Thylander, also from Asheville, had a very different outlook.
“We don’t trust Obama, we don’t feel like he’s been vetted,” she told Xpress. “We don’t feel like they’ve checked him enough as far as his radicalism, his associations with William Ayers, Rev. Wright, the undermining politics of Chicago.”
Acknowledging that the country was facing “tough economic times,” Palin described McCain as “tough, with a bold plan of action” for addressing the problem. She promised to “clean up the corruption and the self-dealing on Wall Street” and guarantee savings and investments, while cutting the national debt by imposing a spending freeze on “all but the most vital functions of government and balancing the budget by the end of our first term.”
The crowd could trust she and McCain, Palin said, because they’d both tackled corruption and “special interests” in the Senate and in Alaska.
She also said that their energy plan would lead to energy independence for America by encouraging increased oil drilling along with natural gas and coal production as well as other new energy sources.
“We’re going to end this failed policy,” Palin said. “We’ll develop new sources and we’ll tap into what we’ve already got, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs right here in the U.S.A. It’s nonsense that we’re sending our Energy Secretary [and] our own president over the Saudis to ask them to produce more energy for us. We need to adopt an ‘all of the above’ approach.”
Parts of the crowd started chanting “Drill, baby, drill!”
“We will ‘drill, baby, drill,’” Palin replied with a smile. “And ‘mine, baby, mine!’”
She ended the speech by saying, “Our opponents are claiming that they’ll fight for you. But since my running mate won’t say this on his own behalf, I’ll say it for him: There is only man in this race who has ever really fought for you.”
The crowd went wild, and Palin continued. “Only one man has the courage to keep fighting for you, and that’s John McCain. God bless you and god bless America.”
Palin, there with her husband, Todd Palin, shook hands with supporters as she made her way out of the arena.
(Click below to see video of Palin at the rally; and click here to see a photo gallery of images from in and around the event.)
— David Forbes, staff writer