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Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Says The U.S. Should Stop Being The World's Policeman


Democratic presidential candidate and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is kind of an outlier in the large field of candidates. She's a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, and she's built her campaign around her anti-war views. Although she's only polling around 1%, she has attracted praise from far-right figures like Steve Bannon. NPR's Tamara Keith recently interviewed her along with Josh Rogers of New Hampshire Public Radio as part of an NPR Politics Podcast series of on-the-campaign-trail interviews. And Tam joins us now in the studio.

Hey, there.


SHAPIRO: So Gabbard may be the most outspoken anti-interventionist in the Democratic Party. What did she tell you about what a so-called Gabbard doctrine would mean for the use of military force if she were president?

KEITH: She is opposed to what she calls wasteful regime change wars. So we asked her what she considered to be a justifiable use of U.S. military force. And she said to keep the American people safe. A lot of presidents say that.

SHAPIRO: Yeah, it sounds like what Obama used to say when he was president.

KEITH: Right, or even George W. Bush. It is a common statement from people who are in leadership. So I asked her to name instances in American history when she felt U.S. military intervention or involvement was justified.


TULSI GABBARD: Well, obviously, World War II. Unfortunately, there are very few examples of justified use of military force. I think it's very telling that the last time Congress officially declared war was World War II.

SHAPIRO: Gabbard also gained some notoriety and bipartisan criticism a couple years ago, when she went to Syria in 2017 and met President Bashar al-Assad, even as he - his government was killing thousands of civilians and using chemical weapons. What did she tell you about whether U.S. presidents should meet with figures like Assad?

KEITH: Well, she defends her decision to meet with him and said that she went in the name of peace. For some share of the Democratic electorate, they're never going to get past that position of hers. She also says that it was good for President Trump to meet with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. But she says that you can't just meet to meet. These meetings need to have an objective, so I asked her whether she thought that President Trump should meet with Assad as she had.


GABBARD: I think that the leader of this country should meet with whomever is necessary in the pursuit of peace and the safety of the American people.

SHAPIRO: Kind of a dodge there.

KEITH: Yeah, it was not a direct answer. And I did ask her twice, and she said, basically, the same thing twice.

SHAPIRO: You know, there's an old saying, politics makes strange bedfellows. And that's especially true of Tulsi Gabbard's supporters. Did you talk about that with her?

KEITH: Yes. Josh Rogers from New Hampshire Public Radio wanted to ask about that. In his town, the biggest Tulsi Gabbard sign is in the yard of a libertarian. And this is what he asked.


JOSH ROGERS, BYLINE: You've been regularly praised by figures on the right and far right, including David Duke, whose praise you denounced, but also people like Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, Steve Bannon. Why do you think that is?

GABBARD: Well, what we're seeing and what we're hearing from people across New Hampshire and in different states across the country is people from across party lines are coming to our town halls. And they're drawn to the message that I'm bringing and the leadership that I'm offering.

KEITH: She says that she can have big differences with some of these folks but that they, she believes, are attracted to her opposition to regime change. Now, Tulsi Gabbard was a rising star in the Democratic Party until 2016. She was even in the leadership of the DNC, but she quit that post in order to endorse Bernie Sanders. And she's been very critical of the party from the inside. And that means that even as she is attracting folks who, maybe, have more of a libertarian bend, there is some share of the Democratic electorate who will just never give her a second look.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. And you can hear more of her interview with Tulsi Gabbard on the NPR Politics Podcast.

Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRKMND'S "BIRD CALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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