WASHINGTON ― Toward the end of Wednesday’s rally on Capitol Hill to convince Congress to kill the Iran nuclear deal, two women walked through the crowd with Donald Trump buttons pinned to their shirts.
“You’re Trump supporters?” The Huffington Post asked. They were shocked by our clairvoyance. “How’d you know?” they replied, unaware that the buttons gave them away.
Shortly thereafter, the conversation turned to the reason they and hundreds of others had gathered on that blistering hot afternoon.
“So what do you make of Trump not ripping up the deal if he wins?” we asked.
Again, the two women were confused. “Trump said he’d police the deal and not rip it up,” we explained.
“That’s crap,” they replied. And, promptly, they scampered away.
Of all the speakers at Wednesday’s affair, none drew more buzz than Trump. When he arrived at the rally, a sea of people flocked over to catch a glimpse, turning their attention away from the actual speaker on stage. Striding up in a well-tailored suit and a red tie, he worked the rope line and posed for pictures. When he took the stage, the audience seemed fixated on his words.
But among those rally-goers, there was some obvious ignorance (willful or otherwise) about how Trump actually felt about the Iran deal. The business mogul has called it atrociously negotiated. He’s warned that it will endanger Israel and set back U.S. interests in the region. He’s mocked Secretary of State John Kerry’s intelligence and political acumen. But, alone among GOP presidential candidates, he has said he’d improve it rather than toss it.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to rip up the deal.’ It’s very tough to do when you say, ‘Rip up a deal,’” Trump told NBC’s “Meet The Press” last month.
For a crowd that had gathered to kill the nuclear deal, it seemed odd that they would simultaneously salivate over the one candidate who wouldn’t axe it. And, indeed, several attendees said Trump’s stance caused them to hesitate to back him.
“That’s what’s holding him back. I’m a Democrat and I would support him,” said Bob Kunst, a Miami man who wore a Hillary Clinton mask and held up a sign that accused President Barack Obama, Clinton, and Kerry of “Fulfilling Hitler’s Dreams.”
But others seemed genuinely surprised to hear Trump’s position. “Maybe the Ayatollah will change his mind if he puts a hellfire missile up his ass,” joked Jim Small, a retired Army intelligence officer.
And others inadvertently spotlighted how Trump might not be the ideal Republican spokesman when it comes to Iran policy.
Shortly after Trump arrived, Michael Pregent, director of Veterans Against the Deal, took the stage.
“We need some money Mr. Trump to keep this ad going!” Pregent declared, aware that Trump was off to the side. His group has been running spots featuring wounded vets and family members of soldiers killed in Iraq by Iranian-backed groups. “When we speak to Senators, they don’t know who Qasem Soleimani is.”
Soleimani, who commands the elite paramilitary Quds force in Iran and helped Shiite militias attack U.S. soldiers in Iraq, is a reviled figure likely to benefit financially from sanctions relief under the deal. But he is also not widely known, as Pregent stated.
And it would be odd, in a way, if Trump funded the advertisements to help end the public’s ignorance. Last week, Trump himself was stumped when radio host Hugh Hewitt asked him about Soleimani and the Quds.
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