Rolling Thunder: Talking Politics With a Motorcycle Guy
If you wake up Sunday at 6 a.m. to the sound of a half-million engines revving up, you can thank the motorcycle riders who descended on Washington this weekend for the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride.
Rolling Thunder is an annual ride from the Pentagon through Washington that brings together thousands of veterans from around the world. On Sunday they cross the Memorial Bridge and cruise by the Vietnam War Memorial, where a ceremony will be held on the afternoon of Memorial Day.
We caught up with the president of Rolling Thunder Washington, Ted Shpak, who's been cruising with the group since the 1980s. His focus is on getting people in Washington to take care of veterans, and he boasts of writing six bills and getting them passed.
He also thinks the military draft should be reinstated, and he's still bitter about the time that Sarah Palin crashed the annual ride last year. Here's a portion of our interview with Shpak. Spoiler alert: He doesn't like President Obama.
What do you make of the current political environment in Washington, and Obama?
"He's cutting our defense. I don't know what else I can say. You can't cut our defense. That should be the main focus. Taking care of the veterans, especially the wounded veterans who came back from this war, a lot of amputees."
Why do you think the draft should be brought back?
"There's nothing wrong with serving your country. One of the big reasons - we're at war. And you cannot put some of these kids in six and seven tours through a combat zone like that. It's an all-volunteer army now, sure, but - because of reasons that it'll increase, these kids won't have to be doing so many tours. Our military will be bigger and stronger."
Watching the Republican primary, what did you make of the candidates?
"Personally I have questions for every person that's running. What are you going to do about our POWs? You gonna support them, or are you going to support the issue or not? The last few years we haven't had someone who's very worthwhile running."
"There are some guys out there that I felt were pretty good. Romney's going to be the candidate, and I'm not so sure if he's going to be a good candidate, but he can't make our country worse than it is right now."
Who should Romney pick to be his running mate?
"It's not going to happen. We have a congressman that he should pick, and I don't know if he's going to win his reelection. Congressman [Allen] West [R-Fla.]. He's a stand-up good guy. I know him because I watch what he does and I watch what he says. I've been in his office. I've talked to him. Is he popular in the country? Probably not. It's who I would pick."
"A good pick for Romney would be, what's his name, from Florida, Senator Rubio. I personally like the guy. I think he's a good guy."
Any thoughts on the F-22?
"You've got a product that's going to be of value. They want to cut it out. They say 'oh no this' and 'oh no that.' It's probably a good thing."
"That's another thing that we have to watch very carefully. They're building nuclear weapons. What we gotta do is find out where they're growing them and take them out. You feel sorry for Israel there, who has a good military. I wouldn't mind going to combat with any one of them guys."
"There's people who are not citizens that are here illegally. And we're paying - our taxpayer dollars are paying for them. There sure is something wrong with that."
Do you get any celebrities to ride with you for Rolling Thunder?
"We had enough problems last year with Sarah Palin. She came out last year and said she's speaking, and she's bringing her bus and starting her tour, and that wasn't happening. I went ballistic when I heard that. One of our members invited them who had no business to invite her. She showed up. Don't come in the way she came in. It was a sad site to see. If she had just came like everybody else, I'd say it was OK. That's not the way it happened."