It’s part one in our… look, I’ll be honest, I have no idea how long this series is going to go for. The 2016 Republican slate was the largest in history but the safe money says it will be dwarfed by the Democrats in 2020. Trump looks like an easy target to raise money against and, with the party still kind of uncertain about what direction to move in, Dems are looking to become the undisputed hero of the party. So there’s gonna be a lot of candidates. And our first is Tulsi Gabbard.
NAME: Tulsi Gabbard
VETERAN?: Active duty, Hawaii Army National Guard; Major
2016 PICK: Bernie Sanders
Tulsi Gabbard is a Congresswoman representing Hawaii. She’s been in congress for six years; before that, she was on the Honolulu City Council and, from 2002 to 2004, in the Hawaii House of Representatives; she was just 21 when she was elected to the state legislature.
Why did she leave the state house in 2004? Because as a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, she volunteered for service in Iraq. She served two deployments as a field medic.
Gabbard was born in American Samoa and is a practicing Hindu. When she was elected to Congress in 2012, she was both the first Samoan and the first Hindu to serve. She achieved a rare first term victory with the Helping Heroes Fly Act, which improved airport security screenings for wounded veterans.
In 2016, Gabbard resigned as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. Gabbard was a supporter of Bernie Sanders and believed the DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, was designing the debate schedule to protect Hillary Clinton.
Then she did something unbelievably stupid.
In 2017, Gabbard traveled to war-torn Syria to meet with President Bashar al-Assad. She defended the trip saying that al-Assad was President of Syria and any conclusion to that country’s civil war, where al-Assad is accused of using chemical weapons against his citizens, would need to include him. The House Ethics Committee found that she had violated ethics rules by not informing House leadership and by failing to file disclosure forms before the trip.
Gabbard later introduced legislation to Congress that would ban the United States from funding al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS), claiming that the U.S. government provided these groups “with money, weapons and intelligence support, in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government.” She has strongly opposed US involvement in the Syrian Civil War and voted against a House resolution condemning the Syrian government for crimes against humanity by using chemical weapons. Gabbard said at the time that she believed the resolution was meant as a justification for military intervention. (Perry’s aside: look, I… I definitely understand assuming that literally anything Congress does is going to be used as justification for military intervention somewhere someday, but this combined with her visit with al-Assad seems to suggest that she doesn’t buy the international community’s assessment of how absolutely garbage al-Assad is, and that’s… worrisome).
In 2014, Gabbard gave an interview to Indian television saying “if I were the president of the United States that I would do everything in my power to keep the American people safe,” which sounds great until you realize the question was about torture. In 2004, she referred to LGBT+ rights advocates as “homosexual extremists,” although in 2010 she said that she supported same-sex marriage.
You want some good things? She’s staunchly pro-environment and pro-indigenous rights. She combined those things by joining the Standing Rock protests in 2016. She introduced a bill to put the U.S. on clean renewable energy by 2035; that bill has stalled, surprise. She holds a whopping 100% rating from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She supports federal marijuana legalization. She opposes arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
She tweeted that President Trump needs to understand that “being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’”
I think there’s a combination of factors here. “Homosexual extremists” is exactly the kind of stupid thing you might expect a 23-year-old to say, and the fact that she is now regularly endorsed by Equality Hawaii speaks to how far she’s moved on LGBT+ rights.
And she’s not wrong to say that military intervention in Syria is dangerous. American intervention helped move along the Libyan Civil War but eight years later we’re still nowhere near a stable, democratic Libya. We’ve been in Iraq for almost sixteen years. We’ve been in Afghanistan for over seventeen.
Gabbard is a Berniecrat without any doubt and she’s hoping to pick up the mantle of the progressive left. Does she have a chance? We’ll find out over the next twenty-three agonizing months! America!