Palin thanks President — Bush, that is — for bringing Osama bin Laden to justice

Speech at CCU benefits military families
The Colorado Statesman

The day after American forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin thanked the troops, intelligence services and former President George W. Bush for bringing the “public face of Islamic terrorism” to justice during a speech delivered Monday night in Lakewood.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, enter the reception in her honor at Colorado Christian University on May 2 in Lakewood. Palin later spoke at a fundraiser for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
A Lakewood police officer stands guard near the stage during a speech by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose image appears on the projection screen, at a fundraiser supporting the troops at Colorado Christian University.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Bonnie Carroll, left, founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, chats with former Senate President and Centennial Institute President John Andrews at the TAPS fundraiser on May 2 in Lakewood.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and her husband, former U.S. Attorney Mike Norton, enjoy the spring evening with Tom Allee, center.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Arapahoe County Clerk Nancy Doty, right, and Jerry Kintzle mingle at the TAPS fundraiser.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Former U.S. Sen. and CCU President Bill Armstrong and his granddaughter Kathryn.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
“Freedom is a God-given right and it’s worth fighting for,” former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a crowd of about 1,000 at CCU on May 2.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Cheryl Klein, June Weiss and Lynne Cottrell visit on the patio at a VIP reception during a fundraiser for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS, at Colorado Christian University on May 2. Cottrell is an active organizer supporting TAPS, which raises money to help military families during times of tragedy.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

“Yesterday was a testament to the military’s dedication in relentlessly hunting down the enemy through many years of war,” she said to sustained cheering at a fundraiser for a charity that supports military families. “And we thank our president — we thank President Bush for having made the right calls to set up this victory.”

Though she didn’t mention President Barack Obama by name, she said the covert mission was an “example of the needed, decisive leadership our troops deserve” and went on to lay out her doctrine for the use of military force.

“When we continue to send our troops into harm’s way, they deserve the clarity of knowing what their mission is,” Palin said. She chided the Obama administration for recent actions in Libya, saying, “Our involvement elsewhere — say, in Libya — is an example of a lack of clarity.”

Palin headlined a fundraiser for the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors — a group that promises round-the-clock help for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one in the military — at Colorado Christian University, a suburban campus headed by former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, who welcomed Palin to the stage as “America’s favorite governor.” Former state Sen. John Andrews, who runs the conservative think-tank Centennial Institute based at the Christian school, emceed the program and took visible delight introducing a half dozen CCU students from Alaska to the crowd and to Palin.

“Freedom is not free — freedom is a God-given right and it’s worth fighting for,” Palin said, and went on to credit veterans for the crowd’s ability to gather at the rally. In addition, she said, veterans were responsible for other freedoms Americans enjoy. “It is because of the veterans — not the reporters — who have given us freedom of the press,” she said as the crowd hooted and hollered with a look toward more than a dozen reporters and camera operators lined up along a wall.

Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, is a potential presidential candidate in the 2012 election, but she makes plenty of appearances for charities around the country and her address at the TAPS fundraiser was billed as nonpolitical.

She spoke to about 1,000 cheering supporters inside the CCU gymnasium and a couple hundred others who gathered on folding chairs outside to watch the program on a giant TV screen. During a video presentation about the TAPS charity, Palin surprised the group in the overflow seating by jumping onto the outdoor stage and thanking them for showing up to back the troops.

In her 20-minute speech, Palin lauded America’s military and praised the host university for sticking to the conservative principles that underlie the education taught there. “If only everybody would embrace what is taught as a foundational principle at CCU,” she said. She added: “You hear politicians go on and on and on today with their ideas, their doctrines,” when, she suggested, Americans instead should “go to CCU and read what it is what they stand for, it’s spot on.”

Warning against complacency in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, Palin suggested “there were already voices declaring our war on terrorism is over. Well, it is not over,” she said. “We are still at war with a brutal enemy that hates America and our allies and all we stand for. So we must not retreat, we cannot let up — the war wages on.”

She went on to say that the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s demise raise suspicions, including “how was the most wanted man in the world able to avoid detection living in comfort in a mysterious, super-compound living in plain sight” within a stone’s throw of a Pakistani military academy. “Speculation will be that at least some of the Pakistani leaders were helping him,” she said, shaking her finger.

“We deserve answers to our questions — we should demand answers to our questions,” she said.

Palin also took the occasion to unveil a five-point set of criteria for committing American troops to battle, which foreign policy experts said the next day marks a break from her previous, more bellicose stance. It sounded an awful lot like a homespun version of the Powell Doctrine, though she credited members of the Reagan administration with first articulating most of its elements.

“First,” she said, “we should only commit our forces when clear and vital American interests are at stake. Period.”

Next, she said, “If we have to fight, we fight to win.” She added that the objective should be to defeat the enemy and that, while “nation-building is a nice idea in theory, we use our military to win wars.”

The objectives for any military involvement must be clear, she continued. “If you can’t explain the mission to the American people clearly, concisely, then our sons and daughters should not be sent into battle. Period.”

Her fourth point drew thunderous applause from the crowd. “American soldiers must never be put under foreign command,” she said. It’s OK to “fight side by side with our allies,” she added, but only under American command.

And last, she said, involving the American military “should be a last resort — we don’t go looking for dragons to slay.” While the U.S. military has an obligation to support those fighting for freedom, she said, it’s important to acknowledge that “we can’t fight every war, we can’t undo every injustice around the world.”

Summing up, she invoked President Ronald Reagan’s “simple, yet profound” way of expressing America’s military aims: “We win, you lose.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, who gained notoriety nearly a decade ago when he cast the fight against terrorism as a Biblical clash between Christianity and Islam, also spoke at the rally. His remarks focused on the courage and resourcefulness of the troops involved in the long struggle to catch or kill bin Laden.

The program also included patriotic songs sung by the CCU-based quartet Legacy, a trumpet fanfare composed for Palin’s visit by a music teacher at the Christian school, and a rapid-fire auction that raised $24,000 to support TAPS. Bidders won a Rockies game with radio host Dan Caplis, a golf outing with radio host Mike Rosen and an overnight trout fishing expedition in Summit County with Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com