Presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawai‘i, 2nd District), made her way to CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper this weekend, where she shared her thoughts on the ongoing government shutdown, and defended her trip to Syria and record on LGBTQ rights. The stop was the latest media appearance in the presidential hopeful’s run-up to 2020, and offered insight for those trying to understand the candidate’s positions, especially following criticism in the week after the unofficial announcement of her candidacy on Jan. 11.
Tapper opened with a question about Trump’s Saturday offer to reopen the federal government and grant a three-year extension to Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA, which protects immigrants who arrived as children from deportation and which Trump announced in 2017 he would end) in exchange for funding his $5-billion southern border wall.
“Would you take the deal?” Tapper asked.
“No. The problem here is that this issue, like so many others in Washington, is being relegated to partisan politics,” she responded, claiming both Republicans and Democrats are angling for “a win” and unwilling to consider each other’s proposals.
When questioned about what her counter-proposal would be, Gabbard deflected. “[Negotiations] shouldn’t be done on television; you need to have adults coming together, sitting down and negotiating the issues that need to be addressed: the issues of border security, the issues of making sure that we’ve got the resources dedicated to where they need to be, and the issues that are still outstanding regarding immigration and immigration reform.”
The issues “cannot be addressed so long as both sides are not willing to come together and have a real conversation and hash out the differences and come up with something that works best for the American people,” she added.
Tapper asked if she was saying that congressional Democratic leaders are also to blame in the debate over Trump’s border wall which has resulted in the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.
“Both sides have completely hardened their positions and are unwilling to come together and work out the differences, and that’s the problem here,” Gabbard responded.
Gabbard did not mention the position held by many Democrats, including Hawai‘i’s Sen. Brian Schatz, that the government should be reopened first (allowing the 800,000 affected federal workers to work and receive pay, a bill that has passed the Democrat-controlled House but has been kept from the being heard in the Republican-controlled Senate), before immigration negotiations can resume.
Schatz tweeted his position on Saturday: “If we open up the government I am open to negotiations. But if we reward this behavior it will never end, and the pain and chaos will be worse in the future. Let this be the last shutdown. They always backfire.”
For the rest of the interview, Gabbard played defense. In response to questions about her controversial 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator and war criminal Bashar Al-Assad, Gabbard said she had no regrets and that “it continues to be very important for any leader in this country to be willing to meet with others whether they be friends or adversaries or potential adversaries if we are serious about the pursuit of peace and securing our country… The only alternative to having these kinds of conversations is more war, it’s more suffering, more lives lost, more destruction.”
Tapper moved on to Gabbard’s past homophobic remarks and positions, including opposing same-sex marriage, affiliation with a group that promoted gay conversion therapy, and referring same-sex marriage advocates as “homosexual extremists.”
“Rarely have we seen someone who is so actively and vehemently and vicerally against LGBTQ equality and acceptance,” Tapper quoted Zeke Stokes, vice president of programs at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) as saying about Gabbard’s comments and record in the Hawai‘i State Legislature. “It’s one thing to say that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but another is to actively work to stymie the progress of a community that is marginalized,” Stokes’ statement continued.
Gabbard answered by telling voters to look at her record in the past six years, following her change-of-heart from the socially conservative values she grew up with. “Like most of the country, my views have evolved,” she said. “I have 100-percent legislative voting record with the Human Rights Campaign, I am a member of the Equality Caucus, and look forward to continuing to recognize the work that still must be done towards equality and working to make that change happen.”
Gabbard said she looked forward to debating the issues with her opponents. However, she has not participated in a debate since being elected to Congress in 2012, dodging then-opponents Shay Chan Hodges and Sherry Alu Campagna and denying voters the opportunity to see where she stands on the issues in comparison to other candidates in the field.
Most curious, however was Gabbard’s response to Tapper’s mention of State Sen. Kai Kahele’s (D-Hilo) recently announced challenge for Gabbard’s congressional seat.
“I’m not thinking about politics right now,” she said.
Watch the CNN video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUMiS6e-1qk
Image courtesy of Facebook/Tulsi Gabbard