What if you held an "America Supports You Freedom Walk" and nobody came?
That's the question John Aravosis is asking over at AMERICAblog, and it sure seems like a fair one. The Pentagon marked the fourth anniversary of 9/11 Sunday with a 1.7-mile walk to Washington and a county-western extravaganza on the National Mall, but damn if the crowd turnout wasn't a little, you know, light.
How light? Who knows? Aravosis has posted some photos taken a couple of hours after the event, and it looks like pretty much no one had been there. We've scanned through the wire photos, and we haven't come across any of those sea-of-humanity shots you get from most Washington marches. In Salon, Mark Benjamin says that "thousands" turned out for the Pentagon's event, although one press spokesman made what seems like the improbable -- but still unimpressive -- claim that 17,000 were on hand. The Washington Times says "as many as 10,000" turned out. The New York Times says that about 15,000 people preregistered for the walk -- as the Pentagon had required -- but both the Times and the Washington Post note that the Pentagon didn't release an estimate of the number of people who actually showed up. (We signed up just to keep an eye on the fun but found other ways to spend our Sunday.) Knight Ridder says that "thousands" participated but noted that "many in the crowd were government employees holding department signs." The Los Angeles Times says that "officials estimated that the event drew about 10,000 people." But at another point in its story, the Times characterized the turnout as "several thousand."
All of which is French for "not very many." A big Washington rally draws hundreds of thousands of people: The Million Man March did 10 years ago, and the March for Women's Lives did last spring. And hundreds of thousands turn out for a presidential inauguration.
An antiwar protest on the National Mall in January 2003 drew at least 30,000 and maybe many, many more. That was back when a majority of Americans still approved of the way George W. Bush was handling things in Iraq. In a Newsweek poll released this weekend, 60 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq; only 36 percent say they approve. That's not to say that those 60 percent don't support the troops. They just might have a better way of showing it than turning out for a Pentagon-sponsored celebration built around a link between the war and 9/11 that simply doesn't exist.