"If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet."
"I love my country. It's my government I fear."
"I wasn't there. But I still care."
"Jane Fonda: Traitor, [expletive]"
"All gave some. Some gave all."
"Dysfunctional vet. Leave me alone."
— Assorted mottos spotted on vest and jacket patches at the annual Rolling Thunder membership dinner Saturday.
BACK TO WORK
The sound of the motorcycles has faded to a dull roar, the 26th annual Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom is over, drawing some 700,000 riders, according to preliminary estimates. But the work for veterans goes on. Artie Muller, who founded Rolling Thunder,will remain in the nation's capital for several days to talk up issues with select officials, then head back to his home state of New Jersey to keep up the good fight.
"Just don't get me started on 'Obamacare,'" he tells Inside the Beltway.
Mr. Muller, a U.S. Army vet who served in Vietnam, is no fan of the Affordable Care Act and is particularly piqued over backlogs on disability claims, military budget cuts and increases in prescription costs for veterans. They are scheduled to rise from $9 to $36, he said.
"Why is that? Many vets can't even afford their medications now. It's a disgrace," Mr. Muller said.
"We had a great ride and wonderful public support this year," adds spokeswoman Nancy Regg. "But in the end, it's about the vets, it's about POWs and those missing in action. This is not about us."
"You can do more than just ride mountain bikes with veterans. You can help a veteran find a job. You can help a veteran who's homeless. You can feed a veteran. You can love a veteran."
— Former President George W. Bush, at the close of his third annual Warrior 100K ride with 14 veterans through rough terrain near Waco, Texas; the three-day event ended Saturday.
THE OLD GUARD BLUES
The Republican Party is in the throes of an identity crisis that mystifies even veteran politicians. "They ought to put a sign on the Republican National Committee doors that says 'closed for repairs,' until New Year's Day next year and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas," Bob Dole, 89, told Fox News Sunday.
The former senator and onetime presidential nominee mused that he would no longer fit in the contemporary GOP, which he deemed obstructive, among other things. But then, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon wouldn't cut it either in 2013, Mr. Dole theorized.
"Reagan couldn't have made it. Certainly, Nixon couldn't have made it, because he had ideas. We might've made it, but I doubt it," he said. "It seems almost unreal that we can't get together on a budget or legislation. We weren't perfect, by a long shot, but at least we got our work done."
ADMIRATION FROM AFAR
Yes, we love our military. The most recent Pew Research Center findings reveal that 91 percent of Americans feel proud of those serving in the post-9/11 era, and three-fourths had personally thanked someone in the military for their service.
"But the public that will be observing the Memorial Day holiday is also one increasingly disconnected from the military and the wars it has fought since 2001, compared to those who lived through the wars of 20th century," says Pew Research analyst Bruce Drake, who points out that the admiration in "at a distance."
There's a widening "military-civilian gap" after the elimination of the draft in 1973 following the Vietnam War. Reliance on a professional military and enlisted volunteers means that less than 1 percent of the American public has served on active duty since 9/11, Mr. Drake says. The figure almost reached 1 percent during the 1990-91 Gulf War, and stood at 1.8 percent during the Vietnam years. More than 2 percent of Americans served in the Korean War and nearly 9 percent in World War II.
More than three-quarters of those 50 and older said they had a spouse, parent, sibling or child in the military, according to the Pew numbers.
"But that number falls to 57 percent of those ages 30 to 49, and the generation gap widens even more for the youngest adult, with just 33 percent of adults under 29 saying they had an immediate family member in the military," Mr. Drake says.
ONLY WAIST DEEP
Pollster John Zogby has given President Obama a grade of "C-minus" over the past week, and notes that his favorability numbers have descended from 51 percent to 48 percent. The phenomenon is "more than cosmetic, it denies Mr. Obama's capacity to claim a mandate," Mr. Zogby observes.
"The three scandals are still in the headlines, but Americans seemed more focused on the tragedy in tornado-ravaged Oklahoma. At the same time, applications for jobless benefits are down dramatically, with economists suggesting that the overall unemployment rate may dip again in May," the pollster says.
"And the president has been widely praised for a major speech calling for reducing the most dangerous practices associated with the war on terror. Congress can surely investigate — as it must — but can it legislate — as it should? Mr. Obama is only waist deep in doo-doo this week," Mr. Zogby concludes.
POLL DU JOUR
• 41 percent of Americans say they have conservative economic views; for Republicans, that number is 70 percent.
• 37 percent overall say their economic views are moderate; Republicans, 23 percent.
• 19 percent overall say they are economically liberal; Republicans, 6 percent
• 35 percent overall say their views on social issues are conservative; for Democrats, that number is 14 percent.
• 32 percent overall say they are social moderates; Democrats, 34 percent.
• 30 percent overall say they are social liberals; Democrats, 50 percent.
Source: A Gallup poll of 1,535 U.S. adults conducted May 2 to 7 and released Friday.
• Inside the Beltway hopes that you and yours have a meaningful Memorial Day.
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