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Palin calls oil spill 'tragic' and defends offshore drilling

Gulf of Mexico oil spill or not, Sarah Palin on Saturday defended offshore drilling as an essential component of U.S. energy security.

Speaking to a crowd of mostly Republicans at the Independence Events Center, the former Alaska governor called the oil spill "very tragic" but added: "I want our country to be able to trust the oil industry."

She said the U.S. must wean itself from foreign oil in order to be truly free.

"We've got to tap domestically because energy security will be the key to our prosperity," Palin said.

In a 30-minute address and briefer question-and-answer session afterward, Palin spoke at a rapid-fire clip in the casual, folksy style that won her legions of fans — and detractors — during her 2008 candidacy for the vice presidency.

There were lots of "we gottas," religious references, praise for the troops and even a trademark Palin growl or two as she outlined a conservative vision for the country that adheres, in her view, far more closely to the Constitution.

"We believe that God shed his grace on thee," she said. "We still believe that America is exceptional."

In response to a question from local radio talk show host Chris Stigall about her political plans, Palin punted. Although she has hinted in recent months that she is considering a 2012 run for the White House, Palin on Saturday joked that she might run next for a PTA position when her son, Trig, starts school.

A spokesman for the sponsor of the six-hour rally, a group called Preserving American Liberty, would not say how big Saturday's crowd was, but a rough count determined that about 3,000 were in the hall.

A media statement from the group described Preserving American Liberty as a grassroots group formed out of concern for the nation's direction. The statement said the group is different from tea parties in that Saturday's "Winning America Back" event was a one-time deal.

The day featured speeches from former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee and former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts, as well as panel discussions.

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