the national interest

Tulsi Gabbard Drops a Big Hint About Running a Spoiler Campaign for Trump

Representative Tulsi Gabbard Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“Hillary Clinton emerged recently to claim, with no basis in fact, that I am being ‘groomed’ by the Russian government to undermine America,” claims Tulsi Gabbard in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today. In fact, as even the conservative Washington Examiner acknowledges, Clinton did not say that. She said Republicans were grooming Gabbard. And far from refuting that charge, everything about Gabbard’s op-ed confirms Clinton was probably right.

It is in Gabbard’s interest to conflate the charge that she is working on behalf of the Republicans with the charge that she’s working on behalf of the Russians. The former is apparent, while the latter is impossible to prove. Gabbard has taken some strident foreign-policy stances that follow no apparent American dovish objective, and do line up with Russian goals. While Gabbard presents herself as a noninterventionist, she bizarrely attacked the Obama administration for failing to bomb Al Qaeda in Syria, while crediting Russia for allegedly doing so:

When reporters found that Russia was in fact using Al Qaeda as a pretext to attack non-Al Qaeda rebels opposed to the Assad regime, Gabbard dismissed those reports as lies:

She later met with Assad, has continued to take positions that line up with the interests of Syria (and its patron, Russia) and has won the support of Russia’s propaganda apparatus. Again, none of this proves anything untoward. Some people have weird beliefs. It is possible for an American to honestly arrive at positions that happen to line up with Russia’s, and in such an instance it would be natural for Russia and its allies to reward that confluence of interest with meetings and friendly propaganda messages.

What is very clear, however, is that Gabbard is now working hand in hand with the Republican party. This is apparent in her pattern of working closely with Republican-controlled media, like “Hill TV” — John Solomon’s propaganda outlet — and Sean Hannity. Gabbard used both forums to promote Republican talking points discrediting the impeachment process — i.e., “Most people reading through that transcript are not going to find that extremely compelling cause to throw out a president that won an election in 2016” — before eventually reversing course.

Gabbard’s Journal op-ed today is the clearest sign yet of her future course. There is no line in the piece committing Gabbard to running exclusively in the Democratic primary. It doesn’t even mention the primary. It has an ambiguous passage that merits close examination. Read this a few times:

This isn’t a petty “spat” between Mrs. Clinton and me. It’s a serious contrast in views about the choice voters face as they decide which Democratic candidate is best equipped to defeat President Trump. Mrs. Clinton already lost to Mr. Trump once. Why would Democrats think a Hillary 2.0 candidate would result in anything different?

This could be an argument for Democrats to nominate Gabbard. But it’s not exclusively an argument for that purpose. It could just as well be turned into an argument for Gabbard as a second “Democratic” candidate running against Trump, using a familiar Ralph Nader/Jill Stein case that the Democrats are going to fail, so you should vote instead for the superior alternative to the GOP.

In the following paragraph, Gabbard makes her strategy even more apparent. “Whether Mrs. Clinton’s name is on the ballot or not,” she writes, “her foreign policy will be, as many of the Democratic candidates adhere to her doctrine” of endless regime change, etc. Gabbard is saying right now that any Democratic nominee is going to be Hillary Clinton. What does that tell you about her intentions?

The Journal editorial page is not normally enthusiastic about running screeds denouncing the bloodstained neocon war machine. But it’s happy to make an exception for somebody who’s in the electing-Republicans business.

Gabbard’s op-ed is structured as an apparent refutation of the claim Clinton made about her. In fact, nothing could do more to vindicate Clinton’s suspicion that Gabbard is being groomed by the Republican party as a spoiler candidate than a Wall Street Journal op-ed previewing her case for a spoiler campaign.