Obama Snubs Rolling Thunder Again

June 1, 2010

All Posts, Editorials, Features

Breaking a tradition that lasted about a decade, organizers of Rolling Thunder were locked out of the White House this year.

Rolling Thunder is an annual motorcycle parade from Arlington, Virginia to the National Mall in Washington. Rolling Thunder began in 1987 as an adjunct to a quasi-outlaw, transcontinental motorcycle ride called the Run To The Wall. It has evolved to become both a non-profit corporation and the largest motorcycle gathering on the planet. Last week, Washington police estimated that 900,000 motorcycle riders and passengers would participate in the 2010 version of Rolling Thunder.

Rolling Thunder, Incorporated which organizes the annual event states that the “major function of Rolling Thunder is to publicize POW-MIA issues: To educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war or missing in action.”


Rolling Thunder has become the life’s work of a Vietnam veteran named Artie Mueller who ran to the Wall in 1987.

Rolling Thunder became a major event because for a couple of decades most of the American power structure was racked with guilt over Vietnam. American culture has never quite digested the bitter fact that some young men had to go fight and some other young men did not. Even now it is still hard for some people to believe that feigning illness or homosexuality to avoid being shot at was a manifestation of sixties idealism – like Woodstock or wearing flowers in your hair.

For at least seven years after the fall of Saigon, Vietnam veterans were generally despised and belittled. Starting about 1982 when the first Rambo movie was released, at the beginning of the Reagan Administration, broad public portrayals of Vietnam veterans were revised and became romanticized.

Both the disapproving and admiring portrayals of those veterans were generally manufactured by men who had used dishonorable methods to avoid military service. Sylvester Stallone for example, avoided Vietnam by fleeing to Switzerland. And as a result America has been rewarded with the richness of the absolutely indispensible Rocky Balboa: Rocky VI.

Jack Rambo

But, John Arthur “Jack” Rambo, whose name Stallone turned into a kind of a joke, may have also deserved to live – arguably almost as much as the movie star. Jack Rambo was from Libby, Montana and he had a wife, a child and a Master’s Degree in geology. He wore glasses and for the last fourteen months of his life he wore a shaved head. He was drafted and he reported for induction because his personal sense of ethics allowed him no other choice. He died very unglamorously. He burned to death in November 1969 after calling in a napalm strike on his own position. And, largely because of the cartoon character that cemented Stallone’s fortune and fame, Jack Rambo’s name on the Wall has been repeatedly defaced.

Stallone may or may not know any of this. He may actually have intended his portrayal to be an homage to veterans of the Vietnam War and he may have succeeded. After the first Rolling Thunder many tributes began to appear. The formal deference that prosperous, successful and often powerful draft dodgers began to offer Vietnam Veterans was obviously intended to repay a debt. And, Rolling Thunder grew as that national regret and guilt became more and more institutionalized.

Beyond Guilt

No President esteemed Rolling Thunder more than George W. Bush who spent most of the Vietnam War drunk. Although, in fairness to the former President, it should also be remembered that he devoted several tedious months to defending Mississippi in case it should be invaded by Louisiana.

Two years ago Artie Mueller rode onto the White House grounds and Bush was waiting for him in the driveway. Bush grinned and confused Rolling Thunder with the Patriot Guard Riders. The President put on a cut. Mueller proclaimed him to be an official member of Rolling Thunder. And the two of them strolled off to the Oval Office – as lovers in movies stroll off toward the sunset just before the appearance of the final words “The End.”

Now Bush is gone. He is busy “writing” his book. And, President Obama is too young to have dodged Vietnam. So he has nothing to feel guilty about. So he does not.

Last year, Obama tried and failed to officially snub Mueller and he seemed to have been genuinely surprised by the backlash. First the Administration refused Rolling Thunder a slot on its calendar. Then the week before Memorial Day, the White House reluctantly agreed to accept a letter from representatives of Rolling Thunder on the condition that the President would not have to attend the letter accepting ceremony. Then after more grumbling, and because our President is unusually warm and cordial when compared to other invaders from the planet Vulcan, Obama changed his mind yet again and agreed to what was officially described as a “brief but cordial” handshake with members of the group.

“The President stopped by while members of Rolling Thunder were meeting with administration officials about veterans’ issues,” a spokesman explained. “He was very happy to meet with them.” Or maybe things were actually as they appeared to be and Obama just got stuck with meeting them.

Forewarned Is Forearmed

This year Obama was better prepared. This year he knew that gigantic pack of motorcycles and all that terrible noise was coming so he left town early. He spent the long weekend in Chicago. Consequently, it was physically impossible for him to shake hands with anybody from Rolling Thunder. And, since the President was not in town it logically followed that there was no reason to even pay lip service to Rolling Thunder by inviting any of the participants to meet “with administration officials.” So no administration officials did.

Vice-president Joe Biden was actually in town but he also declined to meet with anybody from Rolling Thunder. If Biden ever felt guilt he has now managed to evolve into someone who no longer does. The Vice-President likes to describe himself as “a working class kid from Scranton” and that is probably who he sees when he shaves.

But unlike many other working-class kids from Scranton, Biden did not serve in Vietnam because he was awarded five student draft deferments between 1963 and 1968. And in 1968, when Nixon ended deferments for graduate students, Biden was not drafted because he was reclassified as unfit for military service: Because he was able to produce a letter from a doctor who claimed to know that Biden had once suffered an asthma attack as a teenager.

Most importantly, that was all very long ago. Who can remember the details? And, if there is anything that history teaches us it is that history is no match for television. Which explains the essence of the modern Memorial Day. Which is, if you can just get drunk enough at the barbeque you can forget what holiday it is.

Memorial Day Sermon

Which helps to explain the official contempt for Rolling Thunder. It is an inherently loud and rude event. It has always been loud and rude. It has always invited blatantly criminal acts, like simultaneously drinking a beer and riding a motorcycle or running around on a lawn with a sign without a permit. So Rolling Thunder, a non-official event, has now become a bayonet that threatens to open a can of worms.

The essence of America is that the people may be governed only with their consent. The way Americans have always responded to bad laws is to disobey, subvert or ignore them. It is both the outlaw way and the way of the draft dodger. It is the American way. It is what all the names on all the walls and all the graves represent: The right of the American people to disobey, subvert and ignore bad law.

And now, in the fortieth year of the “War On Drugs,” it is the fatal flaw in the American police state. We can be America or we can be a police state but we cannot be both. Bush never appeared smart enough to grasp this irony. Obama may be smarter but he refuses to care.

So now, suddenly, the actions and events that spawned Rolling Thunder have all become very long ago. And the guilt that fertilized the event’s growth is also now very long ago. And those details were never very clear because they were never allowed to be clear. They were always hidden by gun smoke, which has always been the fog of war. And now they are being white-washed.

, , , , , , , , ,

21 Responses to “Obama Snubs Rolling Thunder Again”

  1. YYZ Skinhead Says:


    If an individual (Veteran or not) wrote to the President explaining the significance of acknowledging and meeting with Vietnam and all other Veterans–and maybe officially apologizing on behalf of the USA for American rejection of Vietnam Veterans in particular–would it do any good?

    I think Obama has some shitty advisors and PR people. You are of course correct, he is too young to know what our warriors endured in Vietnam combat and afterward when they returned to a nation of hate-filled peacenik hippies. I am too young to know these things, but I know more about them than most Americans because my dad was a Veteran and a lot of my friends have been Vietnam Veterans. I learned about the various wars by listening to people who fought in them, including Desert Storm and these current conflicts.

    (In addition I have PTSD so I have something in common with a lot of Veterans, old and young. I can empathize with them because they have the same symptoms that I have.)

    If I wrote to the President telling him that he needs at least to address our Veterans, and got many Veterans of various wars to sign the letter, do you think it would do any good?

    YYZ Skinhead

  2. C8652 Says:


    On time, on target. Don’t ever let them forget the choices they made. A coward dies a thousand deaths.


  3. chainsaw Says:

    Two years ago in the Seattle area, while dutifully standing in his dress blues collecting money for the Marine Toys for Tots fund, my son and his buddy were called “Baby Killers”. One of the reasons Rolling Thunder and RFTW got bigger is because a few years ago the Code Pink crowd defaced war memorials in DC on Memorial Day weekend.

    So the same assholes that treated our returning Vietnam Vets like shit are still out there and fully prepared to treat any returning soldier like shit. All they need is a “critical mass” of support and it could happen again just like it did in the 60/70’s.

    In the 60’s and early 70’s it was way cool to be anti-war, which for some reason also meant it was cool to be anti-military and therefore anti-soldier. The small radical anti-military side got the press and the “silent majority” did nothing.

    With the help of the now more influential Vietnam vets, the silent majority now realizes it screwed up by remaining silent. I think tributes like LZ Lambeau, Run for the Wall, PGR, etc are valuable because they show our Vets that they are supported by each other and by vast the majority of Americans. The silent majority has decided not to stay silent and yield to the flag burning – deface the memorial – spit on the troops radical left.

    I got no problem with someone being for or against a particular “war”. That’s politics. However I have no respect for anyone who insults the miltary personnel who have served our country.

    PS – regarding Bush spending his late teens and early 20’s drunk…..who didn’t?

  4. RVN69 Says:

    YYZ Skinhead,
    Our President has “addresed” veterans, his Homeland Security Secretary said we were a security risk to the country.

    Respect to all that have earned it
    Si vis Pacem, Para Bellum.

  5. Hermis Says:




  6. Bud Says:

    It has always puzzled me how one could be elected to the office of “Commander In Chief” and not have any military experience/training/schooling to draw from. I guess this clown in office now eptomizes why maybe they should.


  7. troyez Says:

    Not at all surprised that Obumbler didn’t show, anything he can do to show disrespect for veterans! Oh shit, I spoke ill of the One! I’m a racist! Right Rad?!

    As for people defacing the Vietnam Memorial (or any other memorial honoring our fallen warriors), if I ever catch anyone doing so, I’ll most likely go to jail for correcting them. I’m not a bad-ass or high-speed, but when I hear about that kind of disrespect, I lose my rational mind, and we’ve all seen what an irate animal can do to a dirty hippie.

    Biden was not drafted because he was reclassified as unfit for military service: because he was declared mentally incompetent. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

  8. Beowulf Says:

    I agree with Bud. You wanna run for President, it needs to show prior military service on your record. And, it needs to be true, not like that asshole Kirk running for senator here in Illinois!! What a lieing fuck!

  9. SKREEECH Says:

    When will America wake up? No one respects vets anymore. Well, ok, since 9-11 paying tribute to the military, police, firefighters & veterans has come into vogue, but not by much.

    I remember growing up that Vets were the dudes you could count on. They got respect cause they gave it, hell earned it. Business’ gave them discounts, they were treated with respect. Now that I am a vet, I don’t feel it except within our own community of bikers & veterans. Hell, I was on active duty when the Secretary called some of us specifically “threats to national security.” I busted my hump through 9/11, Katrina & Rita, and all kids of shit. And I’m only a slightly larger threat now than I was then. HA…

    The Prez can’t even show us vets some common courtesy. Not just us, one of the biggest veteran events in the country, a little respect. Fuck him, fuck the White House, & fuck Washington. When is our country going to wake up?

  10. DocB Says:

    Quote: And I’m only a slightly larger threat now than I was then. HA…

    Hey, Me too SKREEECH ………. LMFAO


  11. Dan the Man Says:

    YYZ skinhead:

    I’m far younger than the president, but I got a lot of respect for the ‘nam guys.

    I was in Iraq. I got treated surprisingly well by the public. Well more than I was used to being treated. Mabey I feel guilty because we have all the shit they never did, and they did more with less for it.

    America is a lost country. No one respects anyone anymore. No one thinks 5 seconds more than their immediate consumption needs. People fall in line out of fear because people are too selfish to organize into anything they won’t betray anymore, and too foolish to follow some made for TV dickhead over someone real, or even their so called friends.

  12. Big Bagel Says:

    The Kennedy Family lost a son in WW2. They almost lost a second. Bush the Elder was shot out of the sky during WW2. Roosevelt’s kid’s served. His cabinet members had children serving in combat. Today to have a member of a rich powerful family serve in combat is a very rare occurrence. With few exceptions congressmen and senators send other people’s sons off to fight and die and keep their own children out of the mix.

  13. Doc Jones Says:

    The Dear Leader is fundamently changing America. I truly believe the enemy has made it to the top. I’m certain many people think I’m nuts for thinking this way but there are a lot of us that think he is the enemy. Why does he apologize for America? Why does he bow down to our enemies? The list goes on. Just my thoughts.

  14. Miss Krista Says:

    Why does he not wear an American flag in his lapel pin? Why does he not put his hand on his heart during the pledge of allegiance? Why does he claim citizenship of another country on his college entrance papers and still become president? Why are we working our asses off to pay people to oppress us? WHY? Inquiring minds want to know.

  15. Daddy's Girl Says:

    I am proud to say… I joined the Patriot Guard… to pay Honor and Respect to those that fought and fight now for ALL of us and OUR Freedoms. To pay respect for my dad and brother and my husband who served this Great Country, I stand beside our Veterans with PRIDE and Humility for not doing more myself. It hurts deeply to see that our President and most Joe Citizens do not do more of the same for those that Gave ALL. I must say it felt good to see the citizens turn out to show support as the ROLLING THUNDER came riding into town. However,I was saddened at the lack of turn out from the public at the recent LZ Lambeau event. Shame on those that could not take a minute of their time to stand on the curb to wave a flag of support for the Fallen and MIA soldiers from the Viet Nam era, as each rider representing them, came into town. Each town along the route of these bikers should have been out to pay respect to them as they passed through… flags should have been placed along the roads in honor, for those that never came home. I saw little of this, and my heart broke finding this opportunity was wasted. So much could have been healed by just doing that much. Wake up people… take a minute… Shake a Hand and Thank a soldier. For our President to not wear a flag pin on his lapel, or to have his hand over his heart while saying the pledge, and to leave town and not set a Wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers… speaks volumes and is a disgrace to every Citizen and Soldier that fought every war for this Nation. Being to young to remember Viet Nam is no excuse… Isn’t it the YOUNG Soldier that volunteer’s? God Bless Our Soldiers and their Families… my family, Salutes YOU!

  16. Liz Mandeville Says:

    First let me say I’m the daughter of a Korean War Vet & the Wife of a former Marine & current Army Sgt. I am a proud American, I vote & I ride Harleys every chance I get.
    You had a chance to elect a bonafide war hero, John Kerry. Where were you then? I’ll bet he’d a met with your Rolling Thunder Group. Not only was Bush drunk, he didn’t even show up to his service. Yet you let Kerry get bull dozed by the photo op king.
    THis looks like another thinly veiled racist rant. Our president was at a Veterans Memorial Cemetary in Chicago on Memorial Day. Last time I looked, Chicago was in the USA & we had plenty of guys go to Viet Nam from the midwest. Stop hating. It plugs up your a-ho;e so you don’t think straight.

  17. Rebel Says:

    Dear Liz,

    Are you drunk?


  18. Miss Krista Says:

    Rebel – LMAO ;)`

  19. troyez Says:

    Posted this on an older Rolling Thunder story:

    Way to go, Devil Dog!


  20. jj soilari Says:

    well, since senyore hussein obama is a muslim jihadist it would make no sense for him to honor american fighting personnel. this is not at all complicated.



    […] FOR A WELL WRITTEN ARTICLE ON THIS STORY SEE: http://www.agingrebel.com/?p=3833 […]

Leave a Reply