Players: Ted Shpak and Mike De Paulo, both members of Rolling Thunder, a veterans group that advocates for Prisoners of War. It was announced yesterday that potential Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, will attend the group's annual Memorial Day motorcycle ride in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Opening Serve: Palin's promised presence at the annual gathering hasn't garnered much excitement from at least one Rolling Thunder member. Ted Shpak, a spokesman for the group, told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, he thinks it will be "a big distraction." Shpak clarified that the group neither invited Palin nor is endorsing her in any way. "We're not political, this isn't a political event. Maybe she's coming because she knows we have a half a million people in town," he mused. "We're here for a reason and, in a way, this has been taking away from the reason we're here."
Return Volley: Rolling Thunder's national parliamentarian Mike De Paulo heard Shpak's screed on MSNBC and insists, according to Politico's Ben Smith, that Palin was, in fact, invited to the event by an Alaskan veterans group. "An invitation had been extended to governor and she accepted. She was not invited to speak--she was invited to participate," De Paulo said. "She wanted to experience the run and see who we are and what we're about." However, Smith reports, Joseph Fields, chair of the State of Alaska Veterans Advisory Council told Palin in an email that "the invitation is still open for her to ride and speak at the Rolling Thunder event."
What They Say the Fight's About: Shpak is adamant about not letting Palin, and the media circus that surrounds her, get in the way of the real objective of Sunday's ride--raising awareness for veterans and Prisoner's of War issues. He also doesn't want to be politically connected with the contentious politician as, he emphasized, the group does not endorse anyone. De Paulo wants it understood that Palin did not invite herself but clarifies that she was not invited to speak--though this point is disputed by Fields.
What the Fight's Really About: First of all, the members of this group who consider themselves spokesmen need to talk to one another and get on the same page. Shpak has a point about not wanting Palin to steal the group's thunder (pun intended). But at the same time, he concedes, "we can't stop her from coming to ride if she wants to ride."
Who's Winning Now: It looks like everyone is winning, including Palin. If you hadn't heard that Palin was attending the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle ride, or even that such a thing was going down this weekend, you certainly do now. In the end, publicity for both causes means everybody's happy--as long as Palin can resist speaking at the rally.