The wounds of the 2016 election are still sore, but caucus season is never really over in Iowa.
A few dozen names are already circulating for the 2020 Democratic primary season. One of them, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, recently spent three days in Iowa, including a stop at the Johnson County Democrats Fall BBQ.
Gabbard told me plainly she is not running for president when we spoke this weekend. Of course, Iowans know at least a few folks who said the same thing and then ended up running. It’s hard to think of another reason a Hawaiian would spend a long October weekend in Iowa.
Gabbard has staked out foreign policy as a signature issue, drawing praise from some on the left and the right alike for her outspoken non-interventionist positions. She calls on her experience in the Army National Guard, where she served two tours in the Middle East and still holds the rank of major. Part of her job was to review a daily list of killed and injured.
“With every one of these names I read, I thought ‘Do people in Washington stay up at night thinking about these men and women?’ ” Gabbard said during a 13-minute speech to more than 100 Iowa Democrats gathered at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
Gabbard has consistently called for less U.S. military involvement overseas, arguing that wading into conflicts like the Syrian civil war is ultimately counterproductive. Earlier this year, Gabbard introduced the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, taking aim at government spending she says is “quietly supporting allies and partners of al-Qaida [and] ISIL.”
The bill has attracted a few Republican co-sponsors, including members of the supposedly far-right Liberty Caucus and Freedom Caucus. Gabbard makes clear neither party’s presidents have put forth a sustainable vision for foreign policy.
“We have spent so much, so many people have suffered, because of these counterproductive regime-change wars that our country has led, and this destructive foreign policy that has spanned administrations from both parties,” she said.
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Gabbard’s independent streak has caused some partisan headaches. During the 2016 primary cycle, she resigned from the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Bernie Sanders, following reports of a tense relationship with DNC Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Hillary Clinton ally.
“I don’t make my decisions based on what’s politically advantageous. … There are more issues than people realize where there are points of agreement and convergence,” Gabbard told me.
That may be a politician answer, but it seems more genuine coming from someone who has openly bucked the party establishment.
At least a couple people at the Johnson County event hope Gabbard will change her mind about running for president in 2020 — there’s the guy with the “Tulsi 2020” shirt; and me, your neighborhood right-wing journalist.
I will remain a Republican, but I want all parties to have open, substantive debates about important issues. Gabbard brings a sober outlook on foreign policy sorely missing on both the left and right.
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