Tulsi Gabbard On Hillary Clinton And Her Case For The Presidency
The Democratic nominee opened up about recent remarks made by Hilary Clinton and how her campaign will look like going forward.
Welcome, Congresswoman Gabbard. Thank you. Good evening. Good evening, everyone. Isn't it gorgeous here? I can't get over it. The view from the stage is great. Aloha. So Tulsi, you have had quite a big news week. So thank you for that. We have a lot to talk about. But before we get there, I just want to ask you to start us off by telling us why you're running for president. To bring about the kind of change rooted in the principles that are at the heart of every soldier, every service member, these principles of service above self to the White House, to the presidency. When I'm traveling across the country and visiting small rural communities, big cities, people still feel so disconnected from their government. They feel like our government is not hearing their voices, but instead is really looking inward and influenced heavily by those who can afford high paid lobbyists, the rich and the powerful, the very few. And people are left behind as a result. Just yesterday, we visited a rural hospital in the community of Grinnell in Iowa that's on the verge of shutting down. And they're unable to get the issues-- really, they're legislative issues that need to get resolved because of so much of the gridlock in Washington. We can get past so many of the divides, the divisiveness, the gridlock that we are seeing if we as leaders and we come together as a country saying, hey, let's put our mission of service to the American people, service to our country, above all else, actually put the well-being of people ahead of profits, ahead of politics, and actually get things done. Now, one of the reasons I wanted to start with that question is because it's very important if you're running for president, but also because some people have called your motives into question in the last couple of days. And I'm just going to recap this briefly for anybody who's not been following the story. Last week-- You guys haven't read the headlines the last few days, right? For anyone who hasn't looked at the internet, last week, Secretary Hillary Clinton appeared on a podcast where she said that you are being groomed to be a third-party candidate and that you are, quote, "a favorite of the Russians." She didn't name you explicitly, but the implication was very clear. So how do you respond to those statements? Look, it's outrageous. It's outrageous. I have been motivated throughout my entire life to do my best to be of service to others, to be of service to our country. I am now serving almost 17 years in the Army National Guard still serving as a major, deployed twice to the Middle East. And I've served in Congress now for almost seven years focused on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Homeland Security Committee, understanding the importance of our national security. Really what has come to light by her comments is the huge disparity between the Hillary Clinton foreign policy and the kind of change in foreign policy that I'm seeking to bring at the heart of my campaign for president, understanding. The most important responsibility that the president has is to serve as commander-in-chief. Hillary Clinton throughout her career has espoused, advocated, and championed a very interventionist foreign policy pushing for regime change wars, toppling dictators in other countries, being the world's police, using draconian sanctions to accomplish these things. And they have proven to be incredibly destructive. They have cost thousands of my brothers and sisters in uniform their lives. They have cost the lives of millions of people in the countries where these wars have been waged, wars the likes of which we've seen in Iraq and Libya and ongoing in Syria. What to speak of refugee crises, what to speak of the trillions of dollars that have been wasted on these wars that have undermined our national security when there are so many needs of our people here at home that must be met. Those dollars are coming out of our health care system, out of our schools, out of our infrastructure needs. And here's the big change. Here's the big difference is I'm calling for an end to being the world's police, leading with a foreign policy that's focused on cooperation rather than conflict, actually engaging with other countries, seeing war as a last result, understanding that unless we are willing to pursue diplomacy to work out our differences while also creating the opportunity to pursue areas of shared interests, then the only alternative is the confrontational approach and the conflict and the war that we are seeing for so long. Well, let me ask you to the point of national security, are you concerned about possible Russian interference in the 2020 election? I'm concerned about any foreign interference in our election. Look, I've dedicated my life to preserving and protecting our democracy. When I took that oath of office when I first enlisted in the military back in 2003, that is to support and defend our constitution, the same oath that I took as a member of Congress. And I felt so strongly about this that I understand the most serious threat to our democracy, whether it's coming from interference from another country or another bad actor, is that our votes that we cast in our election could actually be manipulated, that the votes that we are casting at the ballot box. Because we still have-- I believe the number is 14 states now that use no paper ballots whatsoever leaves the vulnerability ripe for someone to come in and actually try to manipulate the votes that are cast, potentially changing the outcome of our election. When you think about the risk that that poses to our democracy, if that were to occur, and you have no paper ballot or paper trail to audit it, then people lose faith in our democracy at all that it'll actually work, that the votes that are cast will actually be counted. So I have legislation in Congress, the Securing America's Elections Act, that will mandate paper ballots or voter-verified paper backups to ensure that we are actually strengthening and protecting our democracy. I want to take one step back and just ask you-- you've answered this question in other forums-- but for our audience, is there any scenario in which you would run as a third-party candidate in 2020? No. Pretty clear. It's incredible to me honestly how many times I get asked that question even just over the last 72 hours over and over and over again. And over and over and over again, my answer is still the same. And I think it's important to look at what I'm doing. I am calling out my own party. And I am calling out what I have seen as a corruptive influence in our party that's taken it away from being the party of the people that it needs to be. So no, I'm not going to run as a third-party candidate. I'm running for the Democratic nomination to lead the Democratic Party, take it back from those who have been advocating for waging war, regime change wars, serving interests other than those the interests of the people. Our party should be the party of, by, and for the people fighting for the well-being of every person in this country, protecting our planet, and fighting for peace. Well, let's talk about peace and the lack thereof for a moment. We have all been following the situation in Syria, I think. And my understanding of your position on this-- and correct me if I'm wrong-- you've been clear that you don't believe the US should have a presence in Syria. But you've also said that you disagree with President Trump's decision earlier this month to pull back in northern Syria. So my question is, if you had woken up as president at the beginning of this month with the situation that we had on the ground where US troops were already in the country, what would you have done differently? So let's start with why our troops are there because I think that that's a very important question that isn't often asked or answered. As a soldier, I know when we deploy or when we go on a mission, we have to have a very clear objective. Otherwise, we end up seeing what they call mission creep. You end up having long, protracted deployments if you don't actually know what you're there to accomplish. Our troops have been in Syria to work with the Syrian Kurds in order to fight and defeat ISIS. That is the mission that they were authorized to go there for. Our troops were never going to or supposed to be there for a long, protracted, indefinite deployment. There is no invitation from the Syrian government for our troops to be there. Our troops were never authorized to go and serve as a peacekeeping force or a force to provide border security for the northern part of Syria. So I have supported bringing our troops home in the conclusion of their ISIS mission, but it must be done in a responsible way. And that's where I find disagreement with the way Trump has done this is, first of all, he didn't withdraw our troops. He just pulled them back from the northern border of Syria essentially leaving the Syrian Kurds there welcoming Turkey to come in and begin the ethnic cleansing that they are doing. What Trump failed to do and what his administration failed to do was knowing that almost a year ago, Trump said, we got to pull our troops out of Syria. I agreed with him then. And I said, OK, yes, but it must be done in a responsible way. What Trump should have done, what I would have done as president, was help support their efforts which they were trying to undertake in negotiating and reconciling with the Syrian government and their allies in the region to ensure they could form that common defense of the northern border of Syria against the Turkish invasion that they and we and everyone knew was always going to happen. The Trump administration not only failed to do that, they were actively blocking the Kurds from forming their own alliances and making false promises to them that we would be there for them when they had no intentions of doing so at all. Let me ask you another Syria-related question. You shocked a lot of people in 2017 when you met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. This is a person who used chemical weapons on his own people. For a lot of Americans, the idea that we would be sitting down with somebody like that is morally sort of beyond the pale. So how do you talk about that decision with someone who feels that way? What is morally beyond the pale is more of our troops, our nation's sons and daughters, continuing to be sent to fight in regime-toppling wars that have nothing to do with our national security, sacrificing their lives and their limbs to do so. I lost friends in Iraq because of decisions that have made by people like Hillary Clinton and others to go and launch a regime change war in Iraq that had nothing to do with our national security, the likes of which we've seen in Libya, the likes of which we're seeing ongoing in Syria today. Here's the reality-- and you can see so many examples throughout history is that the only alternative to diplomacy is war. And if our leaders lack the courage to meet with other leaders of other countries, whether they be adversaries, potential adversaries, or dictators, then there is no hope for peace. War will become a certainty. You look at Roosevelt meeting with Stalin. Stalin murdered what millions of people. That was necessary at that time to put the best interests of peace first. You look at JFK's meeting with Khrushchev, Reagan meeting with Gorbachev, Nixon meeting with Mao. If our leaders lack the courage to pursue diplomacy and maximize diplomacy, we the American people will be guaranteed a continuation of the devastation, the loss of life, American casualties and casualties around the world that we have seen inflicted on our country and the world for far too long. I'm not willing to accept that. This is why I'm running for president to bring about that change in our foreign policy to end that insanity. Obviously, your service has had a huge impact on your foreign policy and how you see the world. Is there a specific moment or decision during one of your two tours that really stands out for you? Yeah, I was deployed to Iraq in 2005. It was during the height of the war. I served in a field medical unit. And every single day, we were confronted with the terribly high human cost of war. The very first task that I had every day-- my job was to provide medical support, logistic support, and operational support to our medics and doctors and all of our field units that were out there. And the first thing that I started my day with was going through a list of every single American casualty and injury that had occurred the day before in the previous 24 hours. And I had to go through this list name by name looking to see if there were any soldiers from our brigade who had been hurt. We had almost 3,000 soldiers there from Hawaii and across the Pacific. And I needed to see if they were hurt. Were they getting the care they needed? Were they able to get the care they needed in country? Did I need to make sure they were evacuated as quickly as possible, make sure the command and everyone who needed to know knew what was going on? But heart-wrenching every single day knowing that these were our brothers and sisters and their loved ones back home, the anxiety and the stress that they feel. And for those who would go home with both visible and invisible wounds, this cost of war would be something that would stick with them forever. I want to ask you one more question related to the news. Sure. Obviously, the other big news in Washington is the impeachment investigations. You were one of the last Democrats to back that. How are you feeling about that decision now? What's your current stance? I have long been concerned that pursuing impeachment, especially driven by partisan reasons, is really, really bad for the country. Our country is already so divided. Last night, I was talking with a college student at Grinnell College. And he was talking about how his uncle and his cousin, they don't even speak anymore because of political differences. And pursuing impeachment purely on partisan differences would be extremely divisive for an already divided country. I looked carefully at the information that was released about President Trump's conversation with the Ukraine president, the whistleblower complaint, the information that was released shortly thereafter, and was very concerned about what I read and understood that we as the American people need to get to the bottom of this and that there needs to be a transparent and narrowly-focused inquiry to be able to determine what should happen next. So supporting that inquiry, but remain concerned about really the lack of transparency that we've seen so far. A lot of the meetings have been held behind closed doors. And if you're not on those committees, then you're not really getting the information that you need both to be able to represent your constituents, but ultimately to be able to make a decision. And I think that that has the potential to undermine the integrity of what should be a nonpartisan investigation. Interesting. So I want to also touch on the debates. Your campaign did not qualify for the September debate. You were back on the stage in October debate. That was one week ago. Was it only a week? One week ago tonight. That's what this news cycle is doing to us. No kidding. And then upcoming is the November debate. The bar for getting in those debates is higher. The qualifications have become more difficult. Your campaign hasn't yet qualified. What will it mean for your campaign going forward if you don't appear in November? I have always said debates or no debates, our campaign is driving full speed ahead. We have been and are continuing to spend a lot of time just with voters. We have small town halls. We have big rallies understanding and recognizing that it is the voters who will decide who our Democratic nominee will be, not the DNC even as they are trying to unfortunately limit who is able to participate in these debates and this discussion and kind of holding their own pre-election prior to voters, especially those who are first in the nation, actually being able to be the ones who are telling the country, hey, these are the people who we think that you should consider who should move forward as the Democratic nominee. So would you want the DNC to have every candidate who is running on the debates? How would you change that? Absolutely. Absolutely. There shouldn't be any kind of arbitrary limitation telling voters, well, these are the people who the party thinks are, quote unquote, "legitimate" candidates. And these are ones that they don't feel qualify. Someone reminded me the other day that at this point in his campaign, Jimmy Carter was polling at 1%. 1%. He would not be allowed on the debate stage in the rules that have been set forward today. Obviously, the rest is history. And what he was able to do-- he went on to win Iowa and obviously won the nomination. But this just points to how we should be focusing on that responsibility that voters take seriously. Empower them. Facilitate the discussion and debate to allow them to make the best informed decision, rather than what we're seeing, which is really these debates. And the last one was, what, three hours long. The previous ones were two hours long. They are unfortunately centered more around getting a sound bite, confrontation, and conflict. The follow-up questions are really more centered around how do we get a fiery exchange between two candidates, rather than actually asking follow-up questions that will get to the heart of, hey, my vision on health care may be very different from another candidate's. Let's actually talk about these issues so the voters can walk away actually feeling like they were informed about something, rather than the snapshots that they get that are really-- it's political reality TV.