Sarah Palin made a surprise appearance Monday in Baltimore — and took the opportunity of a visit to Fort McHenry to knock the president.
President Barack Obama, speaking earlier during a Memorial Day service at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, had said it was his "most solemn responsibility as president to serve as commander-in-chief of one of the finest fighting forces in the world."
Palin, asked in Baltimore for her thoughts on U.S. policy in Afghanistan, responded by upbraiding Obama.
"This is the greatest fighting force in the world, the U.S. military," she said as she walked toward Fort McHenry's famous cannons. "It's not just one of the greatest fighting forces. And I sure hope our president recognizes that. We're not just one of many. We are the best."
Palin, the former governor of Alaska and the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president, brought her patriotic-themed bus to Baltimore from Washington, where she began the tour that has stoked speculation that she is preparing to run for president.
In Washington, she said she was moved by a visit to the darkened rotunda of the National Archives, where she took in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights under glass.
"I wish every student in America could get here," she said. "It is heartwarming, and it means so much to so many of us to be able to physically be here and see the foundation of America."
Palin, her husband, Todd, and some of their children went next to Mount Vernon to tour the home of George Washington.
After lunch, they visited Fort McHenry, site of the 1814 American victory against the British in the Battle of Baltimore. The Palins stopped in the visitor center to read the score for Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Sarah Palin chatted amiably with the handful of reporters who were able to discern her schedule and meet her at her stops.
She continued to stoke the mystery of whether she will run for president, saying at the Archives that she is "contemplating" a run. Later at Fort McHenry, she said she thought that Texas Gov. Rick Perry would make a fine presidential candidate, and that "we have a lot in common."
"Competition breeds success," she said. "I would hope there is gonna be vigorous debate and a lot of aggressive competition even in our primary so that our voters have a good choice."
Palin, who began her "One Nation" bus tour on the back of a motorcycle during Washington's Rolling Thunder rally Sunday, wrote on her website that she'd paid a visit "incognito" to the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday evening.
Although she has not posted her schedule on her website — nor otherwise alerted anyone to it — she was expected to tour a Civil War battlefield and visit Philadelphia on her way to New Hampshire this week.
And she continued to insist that her bus, which looks like a campaign bus, is not a campaign bus.
"This isn't a campaign bus," she said. "This is a bus to be able to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested in all that is good about America and to remind ourselves we don't need to fundamentally transform America. We need to restore what's good about America."