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Gabbard keeps ambition from getting too far ahead

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Candidates for president pick their vice presidential running mates — you can’t run for vice president, you have to be asked.

In Hawaii this week, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was asked about running for vice president next year.

The question was asked, not by Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, but by Kauai’s The Garden Island newspaper.

Would you be willing to run for vice president next year? the paper asked.

“I would because the question that I’ve always asked myself is where can I be in a position to make the most positive impact? That is what motivated me to run for office at 21,” Gabbard told the paper last week.

Gabbard has a remarkable ambitious political biography already. Her successful state House run in 2002 made Gabbard the youngest legislator ever elected in the history of Hawaii and the youngest woman elected to state office in the nation.

Although Gabbard says in interviews that she was always the shy one, as the fourth of five children born to Mike and Carol Gabbard, her family played a major role in local politics.

Mike Gabbard served on the Honolulu City Council at the same time that Carol Gabbard was an elected member of the state Board of Education. Before that, Mike Gabbard was the linchpin in the first protests over attempts to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii and to this day is a strong opponent to same-gender marriage.

Tulsi Gabbard was born in Leloaloa, American Samoa, which adds its own asterisk to the question of running for vice president. The qualification for being vice president, not surprisingly, is that you must meet the qualifications for being president. You must be at least 35 and be a “natural-born citizen” of the United States, which generally means being born in the U.S.

A portion of the GOP presidential contenders are now arguing whether the American citizenship granted to anyone born in the U.S via the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is a good thing.

In June of this year, the federal appeals court of the District of Columbia rejected an appeal that those born in American Samoa should be citizens at birth just like those born in Guam or Puerto Rico. American Samoa is uniquely the only U.S. territory classified as an American possession and those born there are considered “American nationals” and are not citizens and must apply for naturalization if they wish citizenship.

Tulsi Gabbard presumably avoids that debate because while father Mike was born in Fagatogo, American Samoa, mom Carol was born in Decatur, Indiana. So if U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, born in Calgary, Canada, of a U.S. citizen mother and a Cuban immigrant father can run for president, and a series of legal experts say he can, then Gabbard also meets the qualifications.

So now the question: Is Gabbard actually pining to be VP? Yes and no.

In a statement from her office after being asked about her Kauai statements, Gabbard said she was not running for the job.

“I told them I would consider it, because obviously if the Democratic presidential nominee felt I could actually contribute and be of service to the people of Hawaii and our country, then it would be disrespectful and absurd for me not to consider it,” Gabbard in a statement released to the media.

Gabbard then framed the question in terms of the vice presidency being “certainly nothing I’ve ever thought of doing.”

To paraphrase: ambition, not blind ambition.

Richard Borreca writes on politics on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Reach him at

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