The Manhattan real estate mogul Donald J. Trump paid respects to bikers and veterans at a gathering at the 29th annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle run, a major biker event over Memorial Day weekend – dedicated to accounting for military members taken as prisoners of war or listed as missing in action.
The event provided a very receptive audience for Mr. Trump, who likes to stress his desire to strengthen the military and improve how veterans are treated.
“He speaks what’s on his mind and means what he says,” said Tom Christian, 43, a heating and air-conditioning contractor from Tennessee. “And that’s what a biker does. That’s the way we are: We say what we think. If you like it, you like it. If you don’t, go the other way.” (Via: NYTimes)
The crowd showed no sign of caring about the controversy that the blunt Mr. Trump inicited last year when he denigrated the military service of Senator John McCain of Arizona, a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Mr. Trump then said Mr. McCain was not a hero, saying: “I like people that weren’t captured, O.K?”
Mr. Trump may be the latest, but certainly not the only political figure to pay attention to bikers. Sara Palin, the former governor of Alaska, appeared at Rolling Thunder in 2011 wearing a black Harley – Davidson helmet. This was just months before saying she would not run for president in 2012.
One of Mr. Trump’s former Republican rivals, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a very proud Harley owner, campaigned at Harley-Davidson dealerships and wore motorcycle boots at the campaign trail. When asked during a debate what he wanted his Secret Service code name to be, he suggested Harley.
In fact, campaigning in Wisconsin in March, Mr. Trump observed that Mr. Walker was “always on a Harley.” “I’m not a huge biker, I have to be honest with you, O.K.?” Mr. Trump added. “I always liked the limo better.”
Spokeswoman from Rolling Thunder Nancy Regg said the group had invited Mr. Trump to appear. They did not, however, extend an invitation to Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders, she said.
Richard McFadden, 58, an annual Rolling Thunder attendee from North Carolina, said Mrs. Clinton would not have been welcome.
“Just like asking Jane Fonda to show up, it’d be a very, very bad thing,” said Mr. McFadden, who works in computer support and wore a button that read, “Hillary for Prison 2016.”
Mr. Trump’s supporters include a group called “Bikers for Trump,” which has more than 46,000 “likes” on Facebook. Speaking on Sunday, Mr. Trump told the crowd of seeing large numbers of bikers at his campaign events.
“I said, ‘What are they all doing here?’ and my people would say, ‘They’re here to protect you, Mr. Trump,’” he said. “It’s an amazing thing. And I want to tell you, some of these people are tough.”
But when he shakes their hands, “there is love, and it’s an incredible feeling, and that’s why I wanted to be with you today,” he said.
He said that veterans “have been treated so badly in this country” and asserted that in many cases, immigrants in the country illegally were taken better care of. He said that on Tuesday he will detail the money he had raised for veterans’ groups. Mr. Trump also expressed disappointment about the size of the crowd, which did not fill the space cordoned off in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the event.
“I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument,” he said.
He seemed to blame event organizers, saying he passed enormous crowds along the roads on the way to the gathering, including “the most beautiful bikes I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Two retirees from New Jersey, Tom Gadosky and his companion, Marney Pratt, who are both 67, traveled to Rolling Thunder on their three-wheeled Harley-Davidson. Both plan to vote for Mr. Trump in November.
“A lot of the people, if you walk around, are baby boomers, like us,” Ms. Pratt said. “We’ve been through it all. We want to have it back again.”
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