Former U.S. vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, criticized for her lack of foreign policy experience, emerged in Asia on Wednesday to share her views from "Main Street U.S.A." with a group of high-flying global investors.
In her first trip to the region, the former Alaska governor addressed an annual conference of investors in Hong Kong in what was billed as a wide-ranging talk about governance, economics and U.S. and Asian affairs.
"I'm going to call it like I see it and I will share with you candidly a view right from Main Street, Main Street U.S.A.," Palin told a room full of asset managers and other finance professionals, according to a video of part of the speech obtained by The Associated Press. "And how perhaps my view of Main Street ... how that affects you and your business."
It marked Palin's first major appearance since she resigned as governor in July, and the speech's location and international scope could help boost her credentials ahead of a possible bid for president in 2012. While she's thought to be considering that, her Hong Kong trip bore no political overtones, said Fred Malek, a friend and Palin adviser.
"You can read a lot of things into it, 'Is she trying to burnish her foreign policy credentials?' and the like. But really, it's a trip that will be beneficial to her knowledge base and will defray some legal and other bills that she has," Malek said.
Palin left office in part because of the toll of multiple ethics complaints filed against her. Almost all of the complaints were dismissed, but she says she amassed more than $500,000 in legal fees.
In her speech - closed to reporters - Palin argued that many average Americans are uncomfortable with health care reforms that infringe on private enterprise, Chris Palmer, an American fund manager for Gartmore Investment Ltd., told reporters.
Discussing Sino-U.S. relations, Palin said she believes the U.S. has a role in helping China find its future and that the U.S. will always be on the side of promoting freedom, according to Palmer.
In an apparent reference to renewed tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese that have led to violent riots, the former Alaska governor mentioned China's ethnic problems, arguing they are "a sign that China lacks mechanisms to deal with regional issues," Palmer said.
She also criticized the U.S. Federal Reserve's massive intervention in the economy over the last year and praised the conservative economic policies of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, according to another attendee who declined to be named because he didn't want to be seen as speaking on behalf of his company.
"She was careful not to be over-critical ... but she said she saw the fiscal situation is going out of control," said Gregory Lesko, managing director of New York-based Deltec Asset Management.
Palin, who burst on the U.S. political scene last year when she was chosen as Republican Sen. John McCain's running mate, was ridiculed during the campaign after contending her state's proximity to Russia gave her foreign policy experience.
"You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska," she said.
Palin received her first passport in 2007, to visit Alaska National Guard members serving in Kuwait and Germany.
Since leaving office, Palin has vanished from public view, ducking mainstream news outlets and communicating with supporters largely via her popular Facebook page.
She also signed with the prestigious Washington Speakers Bureau and reportedly has been flooded with over a thousand offers.
Palin aides refused to disclose her fee for the appearance, which has been rumored to be in the low six figures.
CLSA requested Palin's speech be closed to reporters so she could make an "unfettered" presentation to investors, according to spokeswoman Wheeler. And Palin, whose supporters have long accused the media of bias and harsh treatment, agreed.
Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said Tuesday the group knew little about Palin's speech.
"We're curious as to what she's willing to say in private but not in public," Sevugan said. "Are there other countries that she can see from her window that she doesn't want us to know about?"