It is not often that three competitors for the same office stand together at a joint rally.
Then again, it’s not often that candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination to the presidency have a chance to share the spotlight with the cable-TV-magnet leader of the pack, Donald Trump.
Republican front-runner Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore were among the speakers who railed against the Iran nuclear deal Wednesday at an event on the west lawn of Capitol Hill before a crowd of roughly 1,000 to 2,000 people.
The rally outside the Capitol Building unfolded as senators inside were debating the agreement, which appears as unpopular among the American people as it ever has been. A Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday indicates that just 21 percent of voters approve. A plurality of Democrats back the pact, but support has dropped from July.
President Barack Obama, though, has secured enough Democrats to ensure he can withstand a veto even if Congress votes to spike the deal.
Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul famous for the “art of the deal,” said he knows a bad agreement with he sees one.
“Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction as incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran,” he said.
Sen. Cruz said releasing billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets will make the Obama administration “quite literally the world’s largest financier of radical Islamic terrorism.”
Brushing aside protesters who tried to interrupt him with chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go,” the developer-turned-candidate used language reminiscent of his critique of international agreements with lower stakes.
“We are led by very, very stupid people,” Trump said, adding, “We will have so much winning when I’m elected that you might get tired of winning.”
Cruz called the deal a “catastrophic” security risk that leaves “four American citizens in an Iranian hellhole.” Trump declared that those prisoners would be back on U.S. soil before he even takes office if he wins the election.
Cruz laid part of the blame at the feet of the two highest-ranking Republicans on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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Cruz laid part of the blame at the feet of the two highest-ranking Republicans on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The mention of their names brought loud boos from the crowd.
Gilmore has been virtually invisible in the 17-candidate GOP field, and several people in the audience confessed they did not know who he was. As Gilmore passed, one attendee asked LifeZette if he was a general.
Gilmore took a moment to criticize the man whose reflected glory he was enjoying, saying it was uncertain whether Trump would be an effective commander-in-chief. “I think that remains to be determined,” Gilmore told LifeZette. “We do know he said he still gets most of his national security information from news outlets.”
People in the crowd travelled from all over the region to join in opposing the pact.
“The main problem is that we get nothing out of this deal, absolutely nothing,” Baltimore resident Tony Gage told LifeZette. “The other issue we have is the fact that there’s no real way we can police what they’re doing.”
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Dirk Rigney, who made the journey from Virginia Beach, Virginia, agreed. “It doesn’t make any sense to let (Obama) have this deal,” he said.
Because Obama has not supplied Congress with side agreements made with Iran, the 60-day countdown to vote has not even begun, Cruz said.
“Mitch McConnell and John Boehner can stop this deal if they simply enforce . . . federal law,” said Cruz.
Several speakers criticized the structure of the congressional review, which, unlike a treaty, does not require a super majority vote in the Senate. In fact, the agreement cannot be killed unless Congress can muster enough votes to withstand a veto.
McConnell and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., defended their handling of the deal in a news conference. McConnell said the agreement can be torn up by the next president. And he noted that Obama had planned to bypass Congress altogether and submit it directly to the United Nations.
Jon Conradi of LifeZette contributed to this report.