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Beck, Palin tell thousands to 'restore America'
"We feel the United States is the greatest country," Adams added. "And we felt we had to do something."
Saturday's event came on the heels of a primary election season that has emboldened tea party activists - and with even more crucial midterm elections looming in November.
In Palin's home state of Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a member of the GOP leadership, is trailing in a primary behind a political neophyte whose underdog campaign was propelled by Palin and tea party groups. After Tuesday's primary, Persian Gulf War veteran and lawyer Joe Miller leads, although no winner has been declared and vote-counting continues.
Still, Democrats attempted to find political advantage in the rally by launching an offensive designed to link it to the Republican Party, and thereby portray Republicans as extremists beholden to the tea party agenda. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, assailed Republicans for pursuing a "destructive agenda" and called out the tea party movement for pushing the GOP to the "extreme right."
The event had a strong military theme, with Beck paying tribute to three soldiers. The rally was paid for through donations to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which funds scholarships for children of service members killed in action. During the rally, Beck announced that the foundation had raised $5.5 million for the event; he did not say how much would go toward event costs and how much to the causes the foundation supports.
The crowd erupted when Beck introduced Palin, a tea party heroine and a former Republican vice presidential candidate. Palin said she was speaking not as a politician but as the mother of a combat veteran.
She said the military is "a force for good in this country, and that is nothing to apologize for." She honored three military veterans, hugging them onstage, and told people to look to them as inspiration, even when the nation's challenges might sometimes seem "insurmountable."
"But here today, at the crossroads of our history, may this day be the change point," Palin said. "Look around you. You're not alone. You are Americans! You have the same steel spine and the moral courage of Washington and Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is in you. It will sustain you as it sustained them."
The crowd responded with chants of "USA! USA! USA!"
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Staff writers Amy Goldstein, Annie Gowen, Hamil Harris, Derek Kravitz, Carol Morello, Naomi Nix, Lois Romano, Lena H. Sun and Clarence Williams contributed to this report.