Politics & Government

Sarah Palin targets water issues during speech at California college

LEMOORE — Former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin touched on everything from the nation's mounting debt to Valley water issues during a 35-minute speech and fundraiser Sunday at West Hills College.

Dressed in a dark-blue suit and speaking against the backdrop of a large American flag, Palin was rewarded with roaring applause and several standing ovations. At one point, a woman in the crowd yelled: "We love you, Sarah!"

There were no signs of protesters at the event. A West Hills student said last week that a peaceful protest was planned an hour before Palin's scheduled 5 p.m. speech.

Palin, who was in Lemoore to help celebrate the opening of the school's $24 million Golden Eagle Arena, criticized the government for a national debt that she said is out of control.

"We are printing up and buying our own notes at an unprecedented rate ... adding to our $14 trillion debt," she said, questioning whether the U.S. can afford to be engaged in another war in Libya.

Her speech came just a few hours before news broke that Osama bin Laden was dead.

Palin made points tailored to her Valley audience. For example, she talked about the plight of farmers in an area that supplies food to most of the nation.

She said Valley farmers are facing a federally imposed drought because the government is protecting a 3-inch fish. Protections for the delta smelt have cut off water that otherwise would be used for crops -- affecting farmland, farmers and workers, she said.

"Where I come from, a 3-inch fish ... we call that bait. There's no reason to destroy people's lives for bait," Palin said. The remark drew widespread applause.

Palin drew a huge response when she talked about the dedication of military men and women in a city that is home to Lemoore Naval Air Station.

She thanked military veterans and asked them to stand up and be recognized as the audience erupted in applause. "God bless the United States military," she said.

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