WASHINGTON — To the annals of politics making strange bedfellows add President Donald Trump and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a Democratic candidate for the White House whom former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently dubbed a “favorite of the Russians,” perhaps even an asset.
Trump has begun to champion the Iraq War veteran and major in the U.S. Army Reserve with a signature gray streak in her hair. “I don’t know Tulsi Gabbard,” Trump told Sean Hannity on Fox News Monday night. “But I know one thing, she’s not a Russian asset.”
Actually, Trump has met Gabbard — during a post-election November 2016 face-to-face arranged by his campaign guru Steve Bannon, who took a shine to Gabbard’s criticism of then President Barack Obama’s reluctance to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Speaking on the “Campaign HQ podcast” last week, Clinton lit this dumpster fire by rattling off her list of grievances on Russian interference in the 2016 election and shared her belief there will be further mischief in 2020.
“I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate,” Clinton offered. “She’s a favorite to the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far and that’s assuming that (2016 Green candidate) Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not, because she’s also a Russian asset. Yeah, she’s a Russian asset, totally.”
A spokesman later confirmed Clinton was referring to Gabbard.
“Great! Thank you @HillaryClinton,” Gabbard, 38, tweeted in response. “You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain.”
Gabbard added that she always felt there was “a concerted campaign to destroy my reputation.” Now, she added, it’s clear “it was always (Clinton), through your proxies and powerful allies in the corporate media and war machine, afraid of the threat I pose.”
Clinton’s comments prompted figures on the right and left to rush to Gabbard’s defense.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a top contender in the 2020 Democratic primary, tweeted, “Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.”
In 2016, Gabbard stepped down from her perch of vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee so that she could endorse Sanders over Clinton.
Newsweek columnist Naveed Jamali responded, “Both things can be true. #TulsiGabbard can be a loyal American, and she can be the focus of Russian efforts to interfere with our 2020 elections.”
“I think Hillary’s just trying to be relevant,” observed GOP strategist Alice Stewart. While Stewart disagrees with Gabbard’s decision to meet with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2017, “I think it’s outlandish to talk like that about someone who has served their country.”
Support on the right
Among Democrats, Gabbard, who in 2002 because the first Hindu candidate elected to the House, has barely exceeded the 2 percent threshold in four qualifying state polls needed to qualify for the Democratic debates.
At the same time Gabbard’s Trump-like take on foreign policy has delivered unusually strong support from figures on the right, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson who has praised Gabbard’s willingness to challenge the Democratic Party.
That same approach — which led her to meet with Assad as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in 2015 — and her willingness to sit down with Trump after the 2016 election may have isolated her in the Democratic primary.
“She’s a minor candidate that is barely hanging in the race,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin told the Review-Journal. “Whatever’s going on with her, I do not believe will have any impact on this election. I do not believe she will be a third party candidate.”
Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 21, 2019