Publication / DecodeDC/ Scripps
September 9, 2015

At anti-Iran deal rally, all eyes on Trump

Tea Party and Ted Cruz trumped by Trump

By Miranda Green

Most pre-election campaign events are reserved for tiny towns that the majority of Americans have never visited, but on Wednesday the 2016 political circus came to the heart of the nation’s capital.

There were #JewishLivesMatter signs, “Don’t Tread on Me Flags.” There were fervent chanters and people united against their mutual disdain for President Barack Obama, who according to one sign is the “Anti-Christ.”

But people gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol not simply to protest, but to experience who would be front and center on stage: Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Officially the event was a rally in opposition to the blockbuster Iran nuclear deal – reached in July – organized by pro-Israel groups and the Tea Party Patriots. Although the protest ended up being for show thanks to a strong push Tuesday by Senate Democrats to make the Republican challenge to the deal all but obsolete –- it didn’t mean the politicians and populist movement figure-heads who attended couldn’t reap the national stage for all its glory.

While Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was the event ringleader – he helped organize the event – it was no secret who the headlining act for the roughly 200 people in attendance was.

And Donald Trump seemed to know it too.

In his five minute long speech, relatively short for Trump standards, he denounced the Iran deal and bragged about his negotiation skills in a single breath. At one point he promised attendees, “We’ll have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Just kidding. No one gets bored of winning.”

Trump wasn’t the first person to speak at the rally, though judging by the crowd reaction and the trickling out of people right after he finished, he might as well have been the last.

Trump’s appearance was largely just that. He spoke in a slot wedged in after Cruz who decried the Iran Deal as “the single greatest national security threat facing America.”

But it was clear Trump’s motives for attending were far greater than sticking it to Obama, who he called a “lawless president.” And the invite, made by Cruz, Trump’s GOP opponent and oddly a growing political ally, was clearly also for dual purposes.

Mort Klein president of the group Zionist of America, a co-sponsor of the event lauded Cruz earlier in the day for inviting Trump, telling the Guardian that “his participation substantially increases the publicity and visibility of the Iran nuclear deal, which is a catastrophe”.

Nevertheless, attendees may have come fully aware that the theme of the day was raging against the Iran Deal, but many admitted they were there solely to see the tan-haired candidate. Participants seemed more enchanted by the candidates on stage than angered by Obama’s policies.

From underneath a towering Trump 2016 sign that dwarfed nearby pine trees, Ed Hunter from Maryland said he supported Israel, but mostly “The Donald.”

“When I saw us running for another political election cycle with the GOP and large monetary donations from various companies—I thought it was going to be another heartless cycle that already cuts out people… Then Donald Trump, who owes nobody a favor, stepped in. That to me is a miracle,” Hunter said.

Others came to the event to witness the billionaire in action, even though they weren’t yet sold on voting for him.

“It’s about what I expected. He’s a very bombastic person,” said Eyal Gurwitsch a student at the George Washington University from Baltimore, Maryland. “I personally would never vote for Donald Trump, mostly because I don’t know many of his stances. He’s not forthright with people. He’s not substantial and meaningful. But it’s a cultural moment I’m not going to miss—it’s a moment in American politics where we throw off politicians.”

Bill Gouse of Virginia said he was just happy to hear from two of the candidates in the large field of GOP presidential hopefuls.

“Almost all of them are refreshing—they are being a little more outspoken, they aren’t afraid of saying what’s wrong with America, instead of blaming America—they are saying what’s wrong and trying to change it,” he said, adding that the topics he was most interested in hearing about were national security, crime reduction and the economy.

Additional GOP populist and Tea Party movement big hitters like Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and conservative talk-radio host Glenn Beck also spoke at the rally.

But the ex-Fox contributor’s and failed TLC show host’s celebrity star-power clearly languished in the shadow of the former Celebrity Apprentice personality.

The rally may have been about the 2015 Iran deal and the Tea Party’s opposition to it, but the crowd’s sights were all looking to 2016.