Washington Sketch: House Democrats' rally has a lot of salt, but little pep

By Dana Milbank
Friday, October 30, 2009

As Speaker Nancy Pelosi led her House Democrats down the Capitol steps Thursday morning for a health-care pep rally, the sound system began to crank out . . . wait, that's not U2's "Elevation," is it?

Alas, it was.

I need you to elevate me here

At the corner of your lips

At the orbit of your hips

Eclipse, you elevate my soul

I've lost all self-control . . .

Okay, you can stop blushing now.

Whenever politicians stage pep rallies to roll out the details of a new policy, the proceedings should be taken with a grain of salt. But Thursday's effort by House Democrats came with six 50-pound bags of salt -- ice-melting salt, to be specific -- placed on the bases of the six U.S. flags on the stage to keep them from toppling over in the wind and marring the event with unwanted visuals and ruinous metaphors.

The Democrats' preparations were elaborate. They chose a spot, on the West Front of the Capitol, near where Newt Gingrich announced his "Contract With America" 15 years ago. They had red, white and blue convention-style signs that, instead of displaying the names of states, offered messages such as "Expand coverage" and "Strengthen Medicare." They shared the stage with about 30 "real people," flown in from around the country, who could tell tales of health-care woe. One Capitol police officer, claiming that she was acting under instruction from Pelosi's office, even kept Republican staffers from entering the event.

But for all the precautions, policy pep rallies have a way of taking unwanted turns, and Thursday's did so almost immediately after Pelosi stepped to the microphone. "Nancy Pelosi, you'll burn in hell for this," said a voice, amplified by a bullhorn, from about 50 yards away.

"Thank you, insurance companies of America," Pelosi replied to the man. Actually, they were abortion protesters, and they were loud.

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