Trump, Cruz Fire Up Crowd at Iran Deal Protest

Trump, Cruz Fire Up Crowd at Iran Deal Protest
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Ted Cruz called the Iran nuclear deal “catastrophic.” Donald Trump called America’s leaders “stupid.” Thousands of supporters cheered, braving scorching late-summer heat to rally against the Iran deal on the front lawn of Capitol Hill on Wednesday. It wasn’t going to change the outcome in Congress, where the nuclear agreement with Iran has plenty of support to be implemented, but that didn’t matter to those protesting.

Cruz, who walked on stage to The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and Trump, who entered to R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World,” were just two of the more than 50 speakers who included members of Congress, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Phil Robertson, star of the “Duck Dynasty” TV show. The messages varied from the simple – it’s a bad deal and should be stopped – to the more complex and nuanced – that the Senate should apply the nuclear option and get rid of filibusters to pass a resolution of disapproval.

Whatever slight differences there were, the speakers uniformly trashed the agreement on multiple levels, harshly criticizing President Obama for negotiating it and Democratic lawmakers for supporting it. Several thousand people from around the country packed onto the Capitol lawn despite the high humidity and 90-degree heat, eager to hear their conservative idols voice their displeasure with the agreement.

The arguments and speeches didn’t provide any new information, but mostly re-hashed points that have been used again and again in the months-long effort to sink the deal. The rally’s timing also wasn’t ideal, as it came after Obama already secured enough support from Democrats to guarantee the agreement is implemented.

Indeed, while the rally was going on, the Iran debate shifted in the House of Representatives to the point where there will no longer even be a vote on a resolution of disapproval, saving Obama the trouble of a veto. Instead, there will be votes on a resolution of approval, intended to force Democrats to go on record backing the agreement, and two other votes raising the concern that the entirety of the agreement wasn’t submitted to Congress.

Those who spoke at the rally and the thousands in the crowd didn’t let that dampen their spirits.

“This Iranian nuclear deal is catastrophic. It is the single greatest national security threat facing America,” Cruz said, adding later that if the deal is implemented, it will be the single biggest issue in the 2016 campaign for president. “Any commander in chief worthy of defending this nation should be prepared to stand up on Jan. 20, 2017, and rip to shreds this catastrophic deal.”

Trump also railed against the agreement in typical Trump fashion: talking first about the many “wonderful deals, great deals” that he made throughout his career as a businessman.

“Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran,” Trump said. “And I mean never.”

He later called those who negotiated the deal stupid and insisted that he is the change the country needs.

“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning,” Trump said.

Facing an audience full of Trump and Cruz supporters, that message was preaching to the choir.

“He’s a New Yorker, you know …  he’s always a tough guy, he never cuts any crap,” said Ed Hunter, a Maryland resident standing under a 20-foot-high sign that said, simply, “TRUMP.” “He always says it bluntly, and he calls out these bums and enablers and cowards for who they are, and as long as he continues to do that, he’s going to be popular.”

Hunter’s Trump sign may have been the tallest, but it was far from the most creative at the rally. Allison Blair, a D.C. resident, was handing out signs with a picture of an atomic bomb with the names of pro-deal Democrats on it above the words “Will your name be on the Iranian bomb?” Doug Collison, who drove from West Virginia for the rally, carried a sign that said, “Wake up GOP” on one side and “Shame on Congress” on the other. Others carried American flags, Israeli flags and an abundance of signs voicing support for Israel. There were also plenty of Cruz and Trumps signs, buttons, bumper stickers and other campaign swag.

The opponents of the Iran deal were met with protestors of their own, as Code Pink members lined up at the entrance to the rally and across the street, calling for support of the agreement.

“This is the best thing that’s happened in foreign policy in a long time, and there’s a lot of negativity around it, and I thought there should be someone out there saying we don’t think that. We want peace,” said John Butler, a Code Pink activist from Falls Church, Va. 

But Code Pink members were far outnumbered by people like Candace Cassim, who drove five hours from North Carolina to see the rally. She wore a bright red “Ted Cruz 2016” t-shirt with “courageous conservative” on the back. That label, she said, explains exactly why she supports him, calling Cruz “the only courageous conservative we have.” She also said she is a fan of Trump, and alluded to an outcome political commentators have discussed – that Cruz may benefit from a swell of Trump supporters if the real estate mogul leaves the race.

“I want Trump to stay out there, keep doing the rhetoric that he’s doing,” Cassim said. “He’s getting out, he’s saying what most of the Republicans don’t have the guts to say, what Ted Cruz has been trying to say in a peaceful, decent manner and they’re crucifying him for doing it. And then Trump steps back, Cruz sets in, and we’re home free. Get rid of the Democrats, all the stupid Democrats and the lazy RINOs.”

The pro-outsider sentiment has given three candidates who don’t hold elected office big boosts in the polls – Trump the runaway frontrunner, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, with neurosurgeon Ben Carson in second place and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina having surged to sixth. John Sichau, from Freehold, N.J., said he had a somewhat unprecedented wish list for the next administration that involves all three: President Trump, co-vice presidents Carson and Fiorina, and Attorney General Cruz.

When asked why outsiders appealed to him, Sichau said, “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out – that’s just a myth.” 

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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