OXON HILL, Md. (USA Today) -- Former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin mocked President Obama, GOP consultant Karl Rove and the mainstream media in a folksy speech to a gathering of conservative activists outside Washington Saturday.
During her address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, Palin accused Obama of failing to lead, instead maintaining a permanent campaign approach of demonizing the opposition.
True leadership, she said, means "ending the poisonous practice of treating members of different social, ethnic and religious groups as different electorates, pandered to with different promises." If all men are created equal, as the Declaration of Independence states, Palin said, then there are "no Hispanic issues or African-American issues or women's issues - there are only American issues."
The former Alaska governor also mocked Obama's proposals for stricter gun rules, tying the issue to conspiracy theories about the president's own citizenship. "More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President - should have started with yours."
But Palin also turned on Republican leaders such as Rove, who President George W. Bush once called the architect of his electoral victories. Rove has recently said Republicans need to choose candidates who are more "electable" and less ideologically contentious.
"The last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting our candidates," Palin said. "The architects can head on back to the great Lone Star state and put their names on some ballot."
Palin's speech was full of the kind of down-home humor and references to her life as a "hockey mom from Wasilla" that made her a star during the 2008 election season. Her biggest applause line Saturday was a double-entendre about the Christmas gifts she exchanged with her husband, Todd. She said he bought her a gun locker to put on a truck, and she bought him a gun. So, "he's got the rifle, I've got the rack," she said.
While the crowd stood and cheered at the line from a country song, Palin took a Big Gulp soda from behind the lectern and sipped from a straw, noting that it was OK since New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was not around. Bloomberg, an independent, has tried to ban the sale of large-size sugary sodas in the Big Apple, a move that drew outrage from the soft drink industry and civil libertarians who charged it was an overreach of authority.
Palin's selection as the GOP vice presidential nominee in 2008 ignited the Republican base, and her speech at the Republican convention - her first major national appearance - made her an instant hero to conservatives. But during the campaign she appeared at times confused or unprepared, and Democrats pounced on her gaffes.
After the campaign, Palin remained a force in Republican politics, and in several 2010 campaigns, her endorsement was critical in raising the public profile and the fundraising efforts of conservative candidates. Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was scheduled to give the keynote address at CPAC Saturday night, introduced Palin on Saturday, saying, "I would not be in the U.S. Senate today if it were not for Gov. Sarah Palin."
In 2010, Palin signed on as a commentator with Fox News, but that relationship ended at the beginning of this year. She has since seen her public profile wane.
She toyed with the idea of a possible presidential campaign in 2012, but ultimately decided not to run.