Who Is Tulsi Gabbard?
Tulsi Gabbard has served in the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of Hawaii's 2nd congressional district since 2012. Having been deployed to Iraq (2004-2005) and Kuwait (2008-2009) as part of the Hawaii Army National Guard, Gabbard is one of the first female combat veterans and the first Hindu to be elected to Congress.
From 2013 to 2016, Gabbard was the Democratic National Committee's vice chair but left her post due to friction she was having with the committee as well as her desire to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid. Seen as a rising political star in the Democratic Party, Gabbard — known for vehement stance against U.S. military interventionism and a champion of veterans' rights — announced her candidacy for the 2020 Democratic presidential election in February 2019.
Early Life and Education
Gabbard was born on April 12, 1981, in American Samoa, on the main island of Tutuila. Her parents, Mike and Carol Gabbard, moved the family to Hawaii when Gabbard was two years old. Hailing from a multi-racial background, Gabbard is a mix of Polynesian, Asian and European ancestry. She has four other siblings and is second to the youngest.
Influenced by her father, Mike, who is a Democratic state politician, Gabbard was initially against gay rights, but she later changed her stance after her military experience and now advocates for the LGBTQ community.
For most of her high school years, Gabbard was home-schooled. She then studied business administration at Hawaii Pacific University and graduated with her bachelor's degree in 2009.
Military Service and Political Career
In 2002, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard. At the same time, she served in the Hawaii State Legislature as its youngest member at age 21. In 2004, she was deployed to Iraq, where she worked in a combat zone as a specialist in a medical unit.
After her first tour in Iraq, she worked for Hawaii Democrat Senator Daniel Akaka as a legislative aide and furthered her military training by graduating from Alabama Military Academy's Accelerated Officer Candidate School in 2007. In 2008, Gabbard volunteered for her second overseas deployment — this time, to Kuwait, where she trained soldiers of the Kuwait National Guard.
In 2011, Gabbard became a chair and vice chair at the Honolulu City Council, overseeing economic development and the budget committees, among other areas. The following year, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing her state's 2nd congressional district. Since then, she has been re-elected three times.
From 2013 to 2016, Gabbard was elected as the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). However, she quickly became displeased with her role as tensions ramped up between her and chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whom she felt was in favor of 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That February, Gabbard left her vice-chair role at the DNC and endorsed Senator Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In October 2019, Gabbard announced she would not be seeking a fifth term in the upcoming 2020 U.S. congressional election and would instead, focus her efforts as a 2020 presidential candidate.
2020 Presidential Platform and Policies
Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of her candidacy, Gabbard is known for being a strong anti-interventionist, stating the United States needs to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan and stop being involved in continuous "regime change wars."
In a tweet she wrote in October 2019, Gabbard asserted: "Foreign policy can’t be separated from domestic policy because the waging of regime change wars, the new cold war, and the nuclear arms race is costing American lives and wasting trillions of $ that should be invested in domestic needs like health, education, infrastructure, etc."
Among some of her controversies in this area, Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2017 and concluded that he was "not the enemy of the United States." However, as a presidential candidate, she has since taken a stronger stance against Assad, claiming he is a "brutal dictator."
Gabbard is for decriminalizing marijuana and reducing mass incarceration and has co-sponsored a variety of legislation to combat these issues. She also believes that an important factor in tackling criminal justice is to address the systemic racism that disproportionately imprisons African American men.
Aligned with fellow presidential candidate Sanders' "Medicare for All" plan, Gabbard is a proponent of universal healthcare and for lowering drug costs.
Although Gabbard has expressed her support for the Green New Deal, she has also pointed out that some of its policy proposals need further clarification.
In 2015, Gabbard introduced a bill that would ban fracking, end fossil fuel subsidies and require the United States to obtain 100% of its electricity through clean energy sources by 2035.
While Gabbard supports immigration reform and President Barack Obama's DACA program, she has run into controversy after she voted with Republicans on a bill that would require "extreme vetting" on Syrian and Iraqi refugees who want to enter the United States.
Although Gabbard has earned just a little over 1 percent of the presidential primary vote in recent polls, she drew a lot of attention during the first set of 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates and was one of the most googled candidates.
During the second debate in July 2019, Gabbard attacked Senator Kamala Harris' record as a prosecutor in California, saying Harris should apologize to those who "suffered under your reign." In response, Harris later jabbed back at Gabbard, bringing up her low numbers in the polls, and also telling CNN's Anderson Cooper: "Listen, I think that this coming from someone who has been an apologist for an individual, Assad, who has murdered the people of his country like cockroaches. She has embraced and been an apologist for him in the way she refuses to call him a war criminal. I can only take what she says and her opinion so seriously, so I'm prepared to move on."
Although Gabbard initially threatened to not appear at the fourth debate, saying it was "rigged," she ultimately agreed to attend but not without eviscerating the media. "Just two days ago, The New York Times put out an article saying that I'm a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears," Gabbard said on stage. "This morning, a CNN commentator said on national television that I'm an asset of Russia. Completely despicable."
Gabbard attributed the attacks to her anti-interventionist foreign policy.
Hillary Clinton Controversy
During a podcast interview in October 2019, Clinton had suggested that the Republicans were grooming a third party candidate with the implication that it was Gabbard. (Gabbard has made many appearances on Fox News.) Outraged by Clinton's remarks, Gabbard hit back by tweeting that the former 2016 presidential candidate is “the queen of warmongers” and the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.”
In January 2020, Gabbard filed a defamation lawsuit against Clinton in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Seeking $50 million in damages, the presidential candidate claimed that Clinton had "carelessly and recklessly impugned" her reputation and intentionally damaged her campaign.
Gabbard was married to Eduardo Tamayo from 2002 to 2006. In 2015, she married cinematographer Abraham Williams in a Vedic ceremony.
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