USA-HEALTHCARE/PELOSI

The rally began with an unaccompanied rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung to an oversized American flag hoisted aloft by a middle-aged man dressed like Captain America.

But the Marvel Comics super-hero impersonator was one of the few fringe elements on display, when about 200 Tea Party members gathered in a small grassy park in the shadow of the Capitol Dome with Washington-based organizers from conservative special-interest groups, House Republicans and, inevitably, the news media.

They had come from as far away as Texas, Michigan and Georgia for a “Kill the Bill!” rally meant to launch an 11th hour grass-roots lobbying effort to stop House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats from achieving victory for the Obama healthcare plan.

But nowhere in sight were those controversial posters that picture President Barack Obama as The Joker from the Batman super-hero series.  Also not in evidence was Obama’s surname with the first letter styled as a Communist hammer-and-sickle.  A few organizers even seemed to play down the Tea Party label a bit by stressing their readiness to join with other brands of conservatives, particularly independents.

Some posters did seem edgy. Several pictured a smiling, cheerful Obama, dressed in a blue tuxedo and sitting in an open coffin marked “Healthcare Bill — R.I.P.” Another advised Congress to “Bury Obamacare Like Obama Buried His Birth Certificate.” A few warned against socialism, while one curiously pointed out that “Fascism is not Democracy.”