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Sarah Palin Takes Credit for Donald Trump’s Rise

At Politicon, the former Alaska governor claimed she got the ‘ball rolling’ for Trump—and got taken down a notch by James Carville on guns.

06.27.16 3:10 AM ET

Sarah Palin came to play on Sunday afternoon at Politicon.

Earlier in the day, the former Alaska governor had used a teleprompter to deliver what could be described as a listless speech titled “Your Garden Variety Everyday Pissed Off American.” In what was billed as an hour-long event, Palin spoke for barely 20 minutes and took no questions from the audience before she was ushered off the stage.

But there was nowhere to hide in her off-the-cuff question-and-answer session with James Carville, who once said she was “uniquely and supremely unqualified” for the office of vice president. The Democratic strategist joked during his introduction that he had no illusions about changing Palin’s mind, explaining that he’s tried with his conservative wife, Mary Matalin, and it hasn’t worked so far. “I’ve gotten to do some pretty cool shit in my life,” he said, “but this is one of the coolest.”

When Palin joined Carville onstage, they began with a discussion about her role as vice presidential candidate in 2008 and how she was ultimately “scapegoated” for Sen. John McCain’s loss to Barack Obama. While Palin said she had no ill will toward McCain, she did allow that it “kinda sucks” that his campaign staff essentially threw her under the bus. In her words, they thought she “walked on water” until the ticket came up short.

As one of Donald Trump’s earlier supporters, Palin told Carville about the excited “whispers” she would hear from people early in the billionaire’s primary campaign that gradually got louder until he secured the nomination. One moment, she said people “don’t give a flying flip” about endorsements from “has been” politicians like her, but the next she appeared to take credit for his success with her brand of ultra-conservative voters.

“Maybe my endorsement was able to kick off—logistically, I’m speaking, about the timing of everything—kick off and make an empowering movement for other conservatives, other proud clingers to their guns or God and our Constitution, the Tea Partiers, to empower them, allow them to go ahead and support the guy!” Palin said, adding that her endorsement was what really got the “ball rolling” for Trump.

The most heated and contentious portion of the conversation came when Carville asked Palin what it is she wants to “take the country back” from, as she is so fond of saying. When she replied, “I want to take back the interpretation of our Constitution that is being wrongly interpreted today,” Carville asked, “Where are we going haywire on the Constitution?”

“Take the Second Amendment,” Palin said to groans from the crowd at the political gathering, held in Pasadena, California. “It is black and white, and we have a right, of course, to bear arms. People who can interpret that to, ‘Oh that means, well, not everybody has that right.’ Or, take certain things like ammo, ‘Well, that doesn’t apply.’ Or we can get rid of, say, AR-15s because AR-15s weren’t invented for hunting. I say, ‘Yeah, the Second Amendment wasn’t written in case the moose turn on us.’ Of course it wasn’t meant for hunting!”

Carville, who described himself as a gun owner, proceeded to ask Palin if that means he has the right to own a “bazooka,” or perhaps a “surface-to-air missile.” To that Palin could only respond with, “Well, that is just a stupid question.” But he wouldn’t let the issue go, asking Palin why in the world anyone needs a “40-clip magazine rapid-fire rifle.”

At first, Palin essentially changed the subject, saying Carville’s question assumes that “the bad guys” are going to follow the law if certain guns or magazines are made illegal. When he asked again why he would need so many rounds at one time, she acknowledged, “You probably don’t in your area of New Orleans.”

“Where would I live and need one?” Carville asked, incredulously, to laughs and applause. When Palin returned to her argument about “bad guys” breaking the law instead of answering the question, he added, “People are gonna get drunk and drive, but we have drunk-driving laws.”

As the pair reached what appeared to be a standstill, Carville said, “I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m trying to understand your mind.”

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From there, he moved on to Palin’s beef with what she likes to call the “lamestream media.” But instead of just letting her paint the press with a broad brush, he implored her to “name names.”

“OK, let’s take Katie Couric,” Palin said, calling out the former CBS Evening News anchor who once dared to ask her what newspapers she reads. But this time, Palin was armed with ammo against Couric, namely the allegedly deceptive editing of pro-gun activists in the documentary she produced, Under the Gun. Notably, the former governor did not accuse Couric of using the same practice during their interview in 2008. While Palin did acknowledge, later on, that Fox News has a “conservative bent,” she would not equate that with the type of “bias” she sees from the rest of the media.

The big highlight of the event came at the very end, during a question-and-answer session with audience members. Carville had set out two rules: Ask a real question and “be polite” to his guest. The first questioner, a 10-year-old boy with a press badge who Carville welcomed onto the stage, managed to follow both stipulations while at the same time getting a huge round of applause from the crowd.

After quoting Trump’s infamous comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly and the “blood coming out of her wherever,” the boy arrived at his question. “How can you endorse someone who’s sexist?” That line got him a pat on the back from Carville, but Palin was not amused.

“Donald Trump isn’t sexist,” she replied. “If he were, I wouldn’t be endorsing him.”

Apparently no other explanation was needed.