Thousands of tea party activists turned out Wednesday to see Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz join forces against the Iran nuclear deal — cheering for the presidential rivals and seething at a deal that probably cannot be stopped.
Trump was the star, mobbed by news crews and activists. And he wasn’t shy about using the spotlight to promote his campaign. Cruz had plenty to gain, too, as he stuck close to the billionaire front-runner and positioned himself as a leading critic of Iran and the White House.
The Texan called the deal “catastrophic” and the nation’s top security threat. Anyone in Congress who backs it, he warned on the steps of the Capitol, will share blame for countless murders Iran will finance in coming years.
“If you are directly responsible for sending billions of dollars to jihadists who use those billions to murder Americans, you cannot wash your hands of that blood,” Cruz said.
The political dimensions of the event weren’t far below the surface. Cruz made no overt vote-for-me comments. Trump wasn’t so restrained.
“We lose to everybody,” he told the crowd, ticking off the Islamic State, China and Iran. “We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Believe me.”
Deals this bad would never happen “if I win the presidency, I guarantee you,” he said.
Offstage, Trump agreed that he has “a little bit of a romance” with Cruz.
“I like him. He likes me.” But, he said, Cruz will be disappointed if he’s counting on ever inheriting his support.
“I’m not dropping out of anything. I never drop out,” Trump said.
The alliance has been an unusual element of the 2016 GOP race. For Trump, the rally provided a chance to shift from reality TV posturing to a focus on a major policy debate. Cruz, who invited Trump to the event to maximize media exposure, wants both to torpedo the Iran deal and to break from the 17-person GOP pack.
The rally drew a few thousand people. That was a modest turnout compared with some previous tea party events at the Capitol. But those on hand were dedicated, enduring hours without shade under a blazing sun.
“Hopefully this rally will wake America up to this traitorous regime in the White House,” said 51-year-old Kathleen Crosby, a Cruz campaign volunteer from Aiken, S.C.
Many in the crowd expressed revulsion at President Barack Obama.
“POTUS in bed with those who behead,” read one sign.
“He hates this country,” said Jim Erwin, 68, of Galion, Ohio, a retired dye maker who had come with a busload of Ohioans to show his opposition to the deal. “You’re making a deal with Muslim terrorists.”
He held a sign that referred to both Iran and the White House as “our enemy.”
Obama’s name drew boos throughout the event.
“President Barack Obama is sympathetic to radical Islam,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, which co-sponsored the rally with Tea Party Patriots and others. “President Obama wants to make Iran great again.”
Likely to stand
For all the dismay over the deal, foes in Congress seem powerless. Democrats have more than enough support in the Senate to back up Obama if a resolution of disapproval reaches his desk. And they may have enough votes to block consideration of such a resolution.
Aware of that, many in the crowd turned out mainly to register opposition — and to see Trump.
“The Iran deal is mostly over,” said Jim McDonald, 70, a retired patent lawyer from nearby Alexandria, Va., holding a giant Trump sign. “Really, I’m here to bask in his glow, or, as my friend said, his halo.”
Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP nominee for vice president, revved up the crowd, too.
“You don’t reward terrorism. You kill it … You cut off their oil and drill baby drill,” she said.
The rally drew small counter protests.
“They’re just pushing war and fear-mongering,” said Michael Avender, 20, a Code Pink volunteer from Bucks County, Pa.
Sylvan Lane contributed to this report.
This article was published by Dallas Morning News and may be found here.