Bill Knight - April 8

Macomb, IL – To a lot of people, S.P. and T.P. means "standard play" and "toilet paper" - fun with VCRs or neighborhood trees - but to those who deny that Medicare and the Veterans Administration health care are successful government programs, the initials can only mean Sarah Palin and Tea Party.

Palin is scheduled to speak for about half an hour at Five Points Washington (IL) community center next week, when she'll receive a reported $100,000 for her speech.

Let's hope those who could afford the $75 to $200 admission to the sold-out event will be entertained. And who can begrudge her wealth based on speaking fees, book royalties or Fox News duties? Who can criticize her popularity with Tea Partiers? And who can oppose her nomination as the 2012 Republican standard bearer?

Well, other conservatives, for some.

The charismatic Palin, 45, who abruptly quit as Alaska' governor in July, polarizes not just the country, but her party and her family, and some conservatives say she's leading the charge for the GOP to take over the Tea Party movement.

Of course, it's not surprising that she irks some progressives and Democrats - which is not unhealthy. But when Palin publicly criticized her running mate, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), or the father of her grandkid, 19-year-old Levi Johnston, Palin comes across as a vindictive scold. That may be why a recent poll found that 60% of Americans think Palin is unqualified to be president.

Conservative Rod Dreher of, wrote, "All she offers are right-wing buzzwords,' a set of self-contradictory, populist notions (Wall Street and corporations, bad; capitalism, good), and her small-town persona. She is so far from being capable of being president of the United States, it's not even funny."

She was amusing and charming - and a bit aloof -- at the Tea Party convention in Nashville, where about 600 people showed up. She tried to needle President Obama with remarks such as, "This is bigger than a charismatic guy with a TelePrompter" (apparently not seeing the irony of making the statement the same week she used notes she wrote on her hand in an interview). But when some of those there chanted, "Run, Sarah, Run!" Palin acknowledged their support but left with the Republican professionals in her entourage.

Some see Tea-bagger types as shock troops assaulting the government that most Americans voted for in 2008, but Americans like Tea Party folks more than Republicans, according to Rasmussen and ABC polls, and that's tempting to the GOP. At the Nashville TP gathering, Palin said, "The GOP would be smart to absorb the Tea Party movement."

Conservative Michael Brendan Dougherty in The American Conservative magazine says, "It's a leaderless coalition of conservative activists who for all their revolutionary vim look less likely to take over the GOP than to be taken over by it. The reins were swiftly seized by Republican hacks and opportunists. Less Ron Paul, more Sarah Palin."

There's growing resentment at the GOP. founder Dale Robertson says, "What I am witnessing is an attempted defilement of the concept of what the Tea Party's purposes are. Has our message become so contaminated and ineffective as to be mistaken for the same old political clap-trap vomited from the Kool-Aid drinking mouths of the Republican elite?"

Dougherty says, "Despite the real idealism of some of its activists both inside and outside the Beltway, the Tea Party is nothing more than a Republican-managed tantrum."

All this from those who know the difference between Palin and real conservatism.