As the 90 degree sun beat down on a thousand or two activists on the west front of the Capitol Wednesday, a carnival of varied speakers lined up to cheer up the faithful. Initially, there were supposed to be about 25 speakers. The real total was much closer to 50.
And, despite what the tea leaves read on the Iran deal's fate in Congress, the faithful were still ... faithful.
Three presidential candidates, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, and Jim Gilmore, all made appearances. Though, given the "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN HATS" dotting the audience, it became pretty clear from the onset that most were there to see The Donald. When Trump left, flanked by his private security and Capitol Police officers, he was mobbed by fans seeking his autograph.
By the time Gilmore was allotted a speaking slot, a large portion of the crowd and the media had departed.
Seeking some shade in the back, behind the stage with the press and VIPs, I was reminded of a rally on the same spot about five years ago hosted by Glenn Beck, opposing Obamacare. Speak of Glenn Beck, and he shall appear... and appear he did, giving a 20 minute speech about halfway through the rally. It wasn't the bombastic Beck of his Fox News days, but rather the more subdued persona seen on his television network.
Former congressman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann tried to extend her time, but the exit music got louder and lounder until she got the message: your time is up.
A handful of Congressmen (some known, some not too known) got up there to speak their piece. Mostly house members, they claimed Republican leaders had sought to change their tactics on the Iran deal because of the success of the rally.
Given the whip count in the Senate, the resolution of disapproval negotiated in Corker-Cardin isn't likely to get enough votes to overcome a filibuster. So, House members are considering alternatives to try and delay the lifting of sanctions, or even legislation that would label the P5+1 deal a treaty, which it ostensibly is. While the likelihood of success of those efforts is to be determined, the prospects are not promising.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin spoke to much applause, but her speech was briefly interrupted by a man in a U.S. Navy hat shouting that his daughter was kidnapped in Mexico. He was escorted away. A newswire photographer nearby told me she was jeered for photographing the incident, a bit bizarre as it was actual news.
The counter protest was led, of course, by left-wing peace agitators CODE PINK. Parked across the street with signs, pink clothes, and a megaphone, they were largely drowned out. They were joined by Neturei Karta International, a group of Orthodox Jews with the tagline "Jews United Against Zionism", who support the deal. Dressed in traditional black garb, the group sought shade and moved off the protest line after an hour in the intense heat.
In the end, pretty much everyone who came got what they wanted: Fans of presidential candidates got to see them, candidates and congressmen got a chance to get some publicity, and the lesser-knowns got a chance to speak and promote their groups.