Tulsi Gabbard’s fiery exchanges stand out in ‘good-natured’ debate
Tulsi Gabbard sparred with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg during Wednesday evening’s presidential debate, adding tension to what was a generally collegial event among the top 10 Democratic presidential candidates and highlighting a growing unease among the party with her candidacy.
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Tulsi Gabbard sparred with Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg during Wednesday evening’s presidential debate, adding tension to what was a generally collegial event among the top 10 Democratic presidential
candidates and highlighting a growing unease among the party with her candidacy.
The Hawaii congresswoman was asked early
on in the debate to explain what she meant when she recently referred to Hillary Clinton as the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.”
In a response that was quickly tweeted out by
President Donald Trump’s campaign, she said: “Our Democratic Party, unfortunately, is not the party that is of, by and for the people.”
Gabbard said that the party “continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington represented by Hillary Clinton and others’ foreign policy, by the military
industrial complex and other greedy corporate
interests.” She said she
was running for president
to rebuild the Democratic Party.
Harris, asked to respond, issued a scathing attack on Gabbard, suggesting she was an opportunist with poor foreign policy judgment who has solicited support from Republicans at
the expense of her own party.
“I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who during the Obama administration spent four years full time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,” said Harris.
“When Donald Trump was elected — not even sworn
in — (Gabbard) buddied up to Steve Bannon to get a meeting with Donald Trump in the Trump Tower, fails to call a war criminal by what he is, a war criminal,” continued Harris, a reference to Gabbard’s controversial meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “And then spends full time during the course of this campaign again criticizing the Democratic Party.”
Gabbard hit back, accusing Harris of “continuing
to traffic in lies and smears and innuendos because she cannot challenge the substance of the argument that I’m making, the leadership and the change that I’m seeking to bring in our foreign policy.”
Gabbard throughout her presidential campaign has fended off her attackers by accusing them of being part of the establishment that’s scared of the message she is delivering about foreign policy. She went on to say that Harris’ criticism “makes me guess that she will, as president, continue the status quo, continue the Bush-
Clinton-Trump foreign policy of regime change wars, which is deeply destructive.”
Clinton’s role as secretary of state was to carry out Barack Obama’s foreign policy, though Gabbard has refrained from mentioning the former president in her attacks on United States’ foreign policy.
Later in the debate, Gabbard took shots at Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., who has emerged as a surprising front runner in early voting states. Gabbard, 38, and Buttigieg are both military veterans.
Gabbard accused Buttigieg of making a “careless statement about how you, as president, would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels.”
Buttigieg said Gabbard was mischaracterizing his remarks.
“I know that it’s par for the course in Washington to take remarks out of context, but that is outlandish even by the standards of today’s politics,” said Buttigieg.
“I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation. We’ve been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and military cooperation that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?”
Gabbard indeed oversimplified Buttigieg’s remarks, according to The Sacramento Bee, which reported on his comments at the time.
Colin Moore, director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said Gabbard’s hostile exchanges stood out in what was overall a good-natured debate and reflected the party’s growing contempt of her.
“I think that they think she is dangerous up there, and I’m sure they wish she would no longer be up on the stage because she is kind of unpredictable. And
I know that is exactly why the people who really like Tulsi Gabbard love her,” said Moore. “It’s obvious that the majority of Democratic Party establishment figures can’t stand Tulsi Gabbard.”
Gabbard closed the debate with her standard campaign message about aloha, which Moore said he found ironic.
“Her closing statement was all about aloha and she was pretty hostile on the stage,” he said.
Gabbard’s overall poll numbers remain in the low single digits, but she’s close to making the next debate in December. She’s just one poll away from meeting the polling qualifications and her campaign has said she’s close to meeting the donor threshold.
After that, the Democratic National Committee plans to hold six more primary debates between January and April, including debates in the early voting states.