Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced on Friday that she’s running for president in 2020. Gabbard confirmed the news to CNN’s Van Jones in an interview set to air on Saturday night.
“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” Gabbard told Jones.
Gabbard, who’s been in Congress since 2012, is a rising star for progressives but also somewhat of an anomalous figure. Her positions on foreign policy, in particular, have at times put her at odds with many on the left over the past year or two.
But the Hawaii US House representative has many of the ingredients of a strong candidate and would make history on multiple fronts if elected president. Gabbard would not be only the first woman president, but also the first Hindu and female combat veteran to serve in the highest office in the land.
Gabbard is one of the first two female combat veterans to serve in Congress and is its first ever Hindu member. She served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was deployed to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.
Gabbard’s military service will undoubtedly be a major asset along the campaign trail, given presidential candidates with combat experience — or any military experience in general — have increasingly become a rarity.
The 37-year-old congresswoman was a vocal supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016. She gained national attention when she resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in order to throw her support behind the Vermont senator during the presidential campaign season.
Explaining her decision at the time, Gabbard said, “I think it’s most important for us, as we look at our choices as to who our next commander in chief will be, is to recognize the necessity to have a commander in chief who has foresight, who exercises good judgment.”
Gabbard’s support for Sanders was not forgotten, and, in 2018, her reelection bid was endorsed by Our Revolution, the grassroots political organization launched by Sanders campaign members after the 2016 election. She also enjoyed support from groups like the Sierra Club and Planned Parenthood.
Despite the widespread support Gabbard receives from progressive politicians and groups, she’s not without her critics on the left.
Many took issue with a meeting she had with President Donald Trump shortly after Election Day in 2016, for example. But her most controversial move came when she traveled to Syria to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who’s widely regarded as a war criminal.
The congresswoman was broadly condemned for the trip and seemed to make matters worse when she subsequently expressed skepticism regarding allegations that Assad had used chemical weapons. Subsequently, she was bashed by Clinton loyalists and Democratic figures, such as former presidential candidate Howard Dean. In response to Gabbard’s comments on Assad, Dean in April 2017 tweeted, “This is a disgrace. Gabbard should not be in Congress.”
Other positions that have placed Gabbard at odds with the left include voting in favor of additional restrictions on refugees entering the US from Syria and Iraq, as well as her use of the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“I think it’s important that you identify your enemy, you know who they are, you call them by their name, and you understand the ideology that’s driving them,” Gabbard said during a 2016 interview.
Gabbard added that she understood the concern of labeling all Muslims as terrorists and did not support that perception, but contended that she used the phrase to distinguish between peaceful practitioners of Islam and radical terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
Trump frequently employs the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” and criticized former President Barack Obama for not embracing it.
The Hawaii congresswoman’s positions and rhetoric on foreign policy make her somewhat of a paradoxical figure for some on the political left, and she will likely face tough questions on these issues along the campaign trail.
Correspondingly, she will undoubtedly face opposition from supporters of Clinton, but could enjoy strong backing from Sanders supporters and even some independents.