When a new candidate throws his or her hat into the ring to run for president, as surely as day follows night, the smear campaign begins – but not always from the opposing party. After announcing her plans for a 2020 presidential run, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has woken up this morning to a barrage of attacks and accusations regarding her fitness for office, with the most vociferous coming in hot from her fellow Democrats.
She is being touted as an “apologist” for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, a “puppet” for Vladimir Putin, and perhaps most damning of all, a closet conservative. But Gabbard, who ticks all the right boxes to be a real contender, may well find that her opposition to business-as-usual politics is driving the fear and loathing.
The Starting Shot
Announcing her intention to run, Gabbard said:
“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve … There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace. I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
The other issues she cited were health care access, criminal justice reform, and climate change.
At just 37 years old, the first Hindu member of Congress has quite the reputation. A veteran who is outspoken in her anti-war stance, she could have a unique opportunity to pick up votes from across the political spectrum.
Crossing the Divide?
Despite being a lifelong Democrat, she resigned as vice chair of the DNC in February 2016 to cast her full support for Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and it seems that the party has yet to forgive her. The Bernie collective is likely to throw its weight behind her in the early stages of a presidential run, though perhaps more as a rebuking swipe to the party engine that foisted Hillary Clinton onto them, rather than from a real desire to see Gabbard take the top spot. This means the California big guns will be doing their best to get her out of the race early … a move that may only serve to enrage a voter base that has never been truly at ease with the Obama/Clinton machine.
But could this Democrat win over conservatives?
Gabbard wants troop withdrawal from almost everywhere, and she has opposed Democrat gun control bills on a number of occasions. Plus, recently retired Republican congressional brawler Trey Gowdy featured as one of Gabbard’s closest colleagues in the House. While these highlights may not be enough to swing a major voting bloc, they could be enough to worry the RNC.
Republican National Committee spokesman, Michael Ahrens, was quick to hint at the direction his party would take in the event that Gabbard manages to fend off the threats from her supposed allies:
“Tulsi Gabbard has an even bigger problem than her lack of experience – it’s that she has no base of support. Liberals think she’s too conservative, conservatives think she’s too liberal, and just about everyone thinks her coziness with Bashar al-Assad is disturbing.”
In January 2017, Gabbard took a fact-finding tour to Syria and met with President Assad; this was shortly before a chemical weapons attack that was swiftly blamed on Assad, and that prompted the Trump administration to launch a series of missile strikes on a Syrian airbase. Since then, Gabbard has been accused of being an “Assad apologist” for refusing to jump on the blame bandwagon. And this is where the Republican strategy points: a Mueller-style investigation into Syrian collusion.
…this did not stop the Democrats from using the same tactic on President Trump.
If Gabbard can get close to winning the Democrat nomination, calls will likely begin for a special counsel investigation into her possible ties to the Assad regime. Such accusations may well be baseless, but this did not stop the Democrats from using the same tactic on President Trump. A Gabbard nomination would present an opportunity for revenge that few in the Swamp could resist – and there lies a fear that looms large in the heart of the DNC.