This is a follow-up essay to my previous posting on whether or not the cable news channels are deliberately ignoring Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign.
I’ve noted in the past how two subjects elicit the most hate mail: Climate change and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We can now add a third: Tulsi Gabbard
Two days ago I posted an essay on my analysis of the relationship between candidate support and news coverage. Based on the data, I concluded that Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard does not receive the amount of news coverage she deserves.
After posting the essay, angry replies hit my inbox within hours. The meanest ones I won’t dignify with a response, but one complaint found within more than one email does deserve an response: Why would the news media single out Tulsi Gabbard?
I believe there are three reasons Gabbard is targeted: (1) She challenged the Obama administration’s informal policy not to use the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ when talking about the War on Terror, (2) she’s a vocal critic of the military-industrial complex, and (3) she sharply criticized Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) at a critical point for Clinton in the 2016 primary season.
Here are some of the specifics behind those three reasons…
Defying Obama’s guidance on referring to Middle East terrorism
When Gabbard was first elected to the U.S. House from Hawaii’s 2nd district in 2012, she was a rising star. A combat veteran that served in a medical unit during the Iraq War, she has a polished, even temperament that presents well on television.
At the start of her congressional career, Gabbard was rising within a political party desperately looking for young stars. The Obama years saw the number of elected Democrats dwindle to its lowest levels in decades and to reverse that trend, the party needed new blood.
In her first term, she was assigned to the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, an almost unprecedented honor for a freshman legislator. She also became a vice chair for the Democratic National Committee — again, an unusually fast rise for a legislator that was only 32 when first elected to the House.
However, there were early signs that Gabbard was not (and is not) a lock-step Democrat partisan. In 2015, she openly disagreed with the Obama administration’s reluctance to use the term ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ to describe the War on Terror’s primary adversary.
According to Gabbard, you cannot fight the enemy if you don’t understand their motivation. To ignore the role of radical Islamic theology (Wahhabism) in terrorism is to misunderstand the problem altogether. The Young Turk’s Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian and others in the progressive left cried Islamophobe!, particularly as Gabbard become a more frequent guest on Fox News where producers began to see her as a useful ally in discrediting the Obama administration’s handling of Middle East events. Though hardly Gabbard’s intent, she represented disunity in a party obsessed with unity.
Embarrassing Hillary Clinton in 2016
If that had been the only thing, Gabbard would probably be in good standing with the Democratic Party today. But it wasn’t. Her next apostasy was a big one.
During the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination race she resigned from the DNC and endorsed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Among one of the first super-delegates to break free from the Clinton orbit, Gabbard again became the poster child for Democratic Party division.
All the same, the endorsement of Sanders isn’t what made her persona non grata at the DNC holiday party. It was how and when she did it.
She resigned on February 28, 2016, the day after Clinton had won a convincing victory over Sanders in South Carolina (73% to 26%, respectively), and endorsed Sanders in the process. Appearing on MSNBC, Gabbard declared that the DNC was not an even-handed umpire in the 2016 nomination race, as evidenced by their unwillingness to have more candidate debates between Clinton and Sanders.
In other words, Gabbard said the DNC was rigging the nomination race in favor of Clinton, long before the Russian-hacked DNC emails revealed in greater detail exactly how intertwined the Clinton campaign and DNC had become. Score another one for Gabbard.
Gabbard’s timing could not have been worse for Clinton, as Sanders was under increasing (and understandable) pressure to get out of the race, particularly by the party’s big donors who did not care for Sanders’ unapologetic Democratic socialism.
But with Gabbard’s announcement, the momentum and media narrative immediately turned against Clinton.
Gabbard knee-capped Hillary Clinton when it looked like the nomination race was over. Clinton never fully recovered after Gabbard’s Sanders endorsement. In contrast, Sanders surged, winning 15 out of the next 31 state races, punctuated by a unexpected win in Michigan. From there, Sanders carried his progressive message to the Democratic National Convention in July. I don’t believe that happens without Tulsi’s surprise resignation from the DNC.
Challenging the establishment’s love for regime change wars
Soon after Donald Trump was elected, Gabbard visited Syria on a fact-finding mission and met personally (and unexpectedly) with Syrian leader Bashar al Assad. The party establishment was apoplectic — still in a deep depression over Trump’s victory — and the Syria trip just added to their view that Gabbard wasn’t a team player. Though it would take almost two years, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed Gabbard from the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the start of the 116th U.S. Congress.
Rubbing salt into an open wound, Gabbard, along with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, would be one of the few voices to urge the Trump administration to be cautious before launching air attacks on Syria following a chlorine chemical attack in Douma, Syria, allegedly by the Assad regime.
The U.S. attacked anyway and now, over a year later, Gabbard’s skepticism about the origin of the Douma chemical attack has been possibly validated by an engineering report leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons suggesting the Douma attack may have been staged by anti-Assad rebel fighters.
It is unlikely the Douma incident will ever be understood with certainty, but Gabbard has maintained a consistent position on U.S. military and foreign relations issues: No more counterproductive regime change wars.
When the Trump administration began its intimidation campaign against Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, Gabbard called it out as reckless. And even as MSNBC and CNN news celebrities implied (or stated directly in some cases) that Gabbard is friendly towards dictators (just like Trump!), she shook off the criticism and maintained her position — regime wars don’t work.
With this same dynamic going on now with Iran, Gabbard has again led among national Democrats in opposing U.S. aggression towards Iran. While Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made some relatively good, though ultimately tepid, statements on Iran, they lack the confidence and gravitas Gabbard brings to the issue.
To be clear, Gabbard is not a pacifist — she believes when the U.S. is attacked (such as on 9–11), using the military is an appropriate form of reprisal. Gabbard is not anti-war. When the U.S. and its vital interests are attacked, the U.S. must respond, with appropriate force, says Gabbard, who also believes the U.S. must always pursue a dialogue with our adversaries such as North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Syria.
Other possible causes as to why Gabbard is ignored
On other policy fronts, Gabbard was the first presidential candidate to voice support for Wikileak’s founder Julian Assange when he was taken into custody by the British and subsequently charged by the U.S. with aiding and abetting an act of espionage, recognizing that his case was a direct assault on Americans’ First Amendment rights.
When New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled the “Green New Deal” — a highly abstract statement on how the U.S. can aggressively address climate change — Gabbard chose not to co-sponsor Ocasio-Cortez’ bill. Why? Gabbard had sponsored the 2017 OFFACT bill, a significantly more concrete plan to convert the U.S. energy profile to 100-percent renewable energy.
Gabbard’s willingness to lean forward on controversial domestic and foreign policy issues — and high success rate on being right — has created a small, but vocal fan base among anti-war activists and civil libertarians.
Finally, Gabbard is hard to place on a one-dimensional ideological scale (liberal-conservative). She operates on a different vector, independent of the Left versus Right rubric. At one moment she might defend fellow candidate Joe Biden, and the next criticize the Obama administration’s Middle East policies. Gabbard is the closest person we have to a non-partisan politician.
And when these reasons are viewed as a whole, it is easy to conjecture why establishment Democrats and, in turn, the Democrat-aligned new media, might consider Gabbard a genuine threat to their power status.