Opinion: John McCain and Sarah Palin get special biker offer

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MEDIA, Pa. -- When Sen. John McCain campaigned at a motorcycle rally last month in Sturgis, S.D., he joked that he’d urged his wife, Cindy, to enter the semi-nude ‘Miss Buffalo Chip’ beauty contest.

The burly bikers gathered there gunned their engines loudly in appreciation.


On Monday, McCain offered to pack his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, onto a custom chopper and drive her to Washington to “raise hell.” The response this time was applause and laughter.

The occasion was a McCain-Palin rally that drew several thousand people to the courthouse square here. As usual, Palin spoke first, and she stoked the crowd by repeatedly praising McCain’s leadership, especially on the war in Iraq.

Then the GOP’s vice presidential nominee announced a surprise for McCain.

Heavy metal music thundered from loudspeakers. Then, barrel-chested, blond-haired, grandly tattooed Paul Teutel slowly rode a gleaming, cream-colored chopper up a ramp and onto the stage, followed by sons Paul Jr. and Mikey. The crowd cheered at the sight.

The trio are best known as the constantly squabbling stars of Orange County Choppers, a custom motorcycle company based in central New York state (no, not the other Orange County) that is featured on ‘American Chopper,’ a long-running reality TV show on the Discovery Channel.

Paul Sr., a Vietnam veteran, climbed off the bike and leaned over to the microphone. The chopper, he said, was a special POW-MIA tribute, referring to prisoners of war and missing in action. “How many people out there love their country and the military?” he asked.

Satisfied that enough did, he noted that McCain suffered as a POW in Vietnam and said, “This bike represents that. All the people who have been POW-MIA, this bike represents that.”

McCain, standing to one side, grinned wildly. “Marvelous,” he enthused, after grabbing the mike. “Sarah and I are going to get on that chopper and ride it right to Washington and raise hell when we get there.”

A campaign aide said later that Orange County Chopper normally hauls the chopper to special memorials and “support our troops” events. It will continue to serve as such a tribute –- unless McCain borrows it to ride up to Capitol Hill next January.

-- Bob Drogin