Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, May 23, 2010 | 7:10 p.m.
Sarah Palin likes Las Vegas, free enterprise and shopping centers.
She dislikes the Gulf oil spill, East Coast elites and big government.
“You understand the opportunities that we have here, especially in America,” she said during a speech Sunday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “Let me ask you, do you love your freedom that you have here in America? Well, so do I.”
The former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate was the featured speaker for the International Council of Shopping Centers convention. The convention was part of RECon 2010, the world’s largest gathering of real estate professionals.
Palin was expected to talk about leadership, but the speech was heavy on national politics and personal anecdotes. About 400 people attended the event.
Palin said an airline lost her luggage as she was flying from Alaska to Idaho for a Saturday speaking engagement. She said she was able to get new clothes, however, thanks to a local mall.
“What would our communities be without our shopping centers?” she asked. “Meeting our needs is what it is that you do.”
A free-market economy in which business owners have control over their destinies is best for everyone, Palin said several times during the nearly 40-minute speech. Other topics included so-called “Obamacare,” business taxes, oil and shopping.
Palin said Las Vegas is a portrait of the American entrepreneurial spirit. Just as Las Vegas was built in a barren desert, she said, small business owners know what it is like to make “something out of nothing.”
“I think that every politician who wants to run for office should have run a business before,” she said.
The crowd cheered. “You are the backbone of our nation’s economy,” she said.
Palin said she and her husband, Todd, enjoy coming to Las Vegas. Palin said she disagreed with a controversial statement President Barack Obama made last year about spending money in Las Vegas. Tourism should be encouraged, she said, because it bolsters the local economy.
“I was so proud of the good, noble mayor here, Mayor Goodman, who dared take on anyone who suggested Vegas wasn’t a good place to be,” she said. “I thought, man, he sounds like he’s goin’ rogue. He took on the president, even.”
But, Palin said, she had a confession to make.
“I’m going to tell you something that only my family and some of my close friends know about me,” she said. “I’ve never been the biggest shopper in the world.”
Despite having heralded greater domestic drilling – and famously saying “drill, baby, drill” – Palin said she hoped the Gulf oil spill would prompt the government to place stringent restrictions on oil companies that want to search for, and pump out, American oil.
Palin said while the U.S. should have strict regulations on drilling, oil companies should be encouraged to search domestically to wean the U.S. off foreign oil dependency.
On other matters, she said, the government should stay out.
Ryan Olson, a real estate broker from Bellevue, Wash., said he agrees with Palin’s free-market ideas.
“I think she hits the nail on the head when she talks about stopping wasteful government spending,” he said.
Mary Hsu, a real estate investor from San Marino, Calif., said she mostly agrees with Palin’s economic ideas. But she said health care, for example, hasn’t worked as efficiently in the private sector.
Palin said that when she served on the city council in Wasilla, Alaska, she voted against anything that would limit the freedom of businesses. She didn’t want Wasilla to pass any ordinance that would deter businesses from settling there, she said.
She says that on her watch, Wasilla grew from a town without a Wal-Mart into a small retail center.
“Other countries can look to America and see some of the … things that we do that they can emulate,” she said. “And ultimately it will help create a more prosperous, a more safer, even a freer world.”