Ah, February 5th – only 637 days until the 2020 election. We arguably should not already be in the midst of a primary season…but here we are. Not only is an election happening, but all of the politics (read garbage) right along with it. Unfortunately, the dark side of our political contest seems centered around one person right now, Tulsi Gabbard.
When congresswoman Gabbard abruptly left the DNC in 2016 to campaign for Senator Bernie Sanders, she certainly made a lot of enemies in high places and, well, now they’re doing their best to pay her back. I’ve already written one post discussing how the DNC and its allies plan to smear Rep. Gabbard, but now there’s a new story on the horizon, one that bears breaking out.
On Feb. 2, the same day Rep. Gabbard gave her opening speech on her 2020 campaign, NBC ran a story discussing how Russia was favoring the candidate. The intent was obvious: If Russia likes Tulsi Gabbard, then she must be bad, right? After all, Russia likes Donald Trump and we’re living that current nightmare. As long as you keep it simple, it seems cut and dry. But life isn’t simple, is it?
Why Would Russia Support Tulsi Gabbard?
I’m going to be honest here. When I first read NBC’s story, my initial response was “that is believable.” I don’t mean that I think Gabbard is a Russian puppet. I don’t – not even close. However, let’s look at the reality of the campaign:
Tulsi Gabbard’s defining issue so far has been her stance on foreign intervention, which she has (correctly) dubbed “regime change wars.” Gabbard asserts (again, I believe correctly) that, despite decades of America attempting to make the world better through military action, we have not succeeded. If anything, the violence we have brought abroad has made us less safe here at home – at the expense of trillions of dollars.
It is difficult to look at countries like Iraq or Vietnam and say “man, we did great things there, didn’t we?” Given that we’ve been trying this approach for decades without real success, I believe in Rep. Gabbard’s vision of an American future that is less dependent on flexing our military muscle into other countries.
Which brings in Russia. If you’re Vladimir Putin, the news of a less aggressive America is welcome. We routinely butt heads with Russia, most recently in Syria (another war that Rep. Gabbard opposes). To hear one candidate say concretely that she plans to pull back on American troop deployments well, you can see why that would get Russia’s interest.
The other factor to consider here is chaos. Russia wants America in chaos – that is arguably one of the reasons they backed President Trump. An America in chaos is one that is less able to respond to Russia’s actions abroad – at least that’s probably the theory.
Now, we’re at the start of a democratic primary, and the DNC and its allies have already made it clear which candidate they absolutely don’t want. So, if you’re Russia and you want chaos, then you would naturally pick said dark horse.
And all of this is fine. I mean, it’s not fine but it’s whatever. Who cares who Russia wants to win? Before 2016, that never mattered.
Why Russia Mattered in 2016
The big difference in the last election wasn’t that Russia backed Trump – I’m going to guess that Putin has had a favorite for several elections now. The horrifying difference maker was how the Trump campaign responded to a hostile foreign force trying to influence the election – namely, “please go right ahead.” Then candidate Trump even backed foreign efforts to hack national software on the air:
Yeah, that’s scary. For Trump, winning mattered more than standing up to Russian interference. Instead of telling them to screw off, he either 1. Denied they were involved at all, or 2. Welcomed their help if it could make him look good.
As a child, I was taught that winning didn’t matter – it was how I played the game. I think 2016 was the year this lesson become painful in its relevance. What Trump and the Republican party have done is placed winning at the highest priority, no matter the game. As a result, the game now joyfully includes foreign collusion and voter suppression.
Buy hey – as long as they win, they don’t care. And even if they loss – all they care about is the fact they didn’t win. America be damned.
Criticizing Tulsi Gabbard’s Response to the NBC Story
In her opening speech, Rep. Gabbard stressed “service over self.” As an active veteran and an Iraq war volunteer, she understands what that means more than most. It is one of the reasons I support her. A good president must put the needs of the nation before their own interests/interests of the party. It is the only way we will actually accomplish what needs to happen.
That said, I must confess disappointment at Rep. Gabbard’s response to the NBC story. Her approach has simply been: discredit NBC. For the record, I don’t know if NBC got the story right. There is definitely a narrative that they and several other outlets are following against Gabbard. However, I am not sure this aggression is the correct response.
And I definitely know that highlighting Tucker Carlson is not the right way to respond. Carlson is part of the problem facing media in 2019. He’s not a journalist but an angry commentator who often spews opinions as if they were facts. The content of his speech is often hateful and encourages divisions, especially toward people of color. In short – not an ally I’d ever want if I were running for President.
Despicable people exist. It’s a fact of life. Petty people also exist – many of them evidently work in the DNC. However, just because a despicable person says something nice about you doesn’t suddenly make them not so bad. Rep. Gabbard had a fantastic response when asked about how she felt that Steve Bannon reportedly likes her:
That’s fantastic and completely true – we have no control over who likes/doesn’t like us, so we really shouldn’t care. I will say this now: Russia may well be backing Tulsi Gabbard, simply because they want less military in their side of the world. That doesn’t automatically make the idea of pulling back from excessive regime-change wars a bad one.
Gabbard should obviously denounce Russian interference – I’m sure she wants 2020 to be as fair as possible – but she also shouldn’t have to apologize for being randomly picked by the Kremlin. If chaos is the goal then, rest assured, they will have other horses in this race.
However, I hope that – in the future – Rep. Gabbard stops this nonsense of elevating fear mongers like Tucker Carlson just because he said something nice about her. Tulsi Gabbard is a legitimate candidate with a ton of good ideas on how to move our country forward – that should be the focus.