Why Is the Far Left Defending Tulsi Gabbard?

The fifth Democratic debate will take place on November 20th in Atlanta, Georgia. The 12 candidates who participated in the last one have been whittled down to 10, with O’Rourke dropping out of the race and Castro not meeting the qualifications. Tulsi Gabbard, who launched an effort to cast the election as “rigged,” will once again participate.

In an effort to garner some attention prior to the debate, Gabbard’s lawyers released a letter they sent to Hillary Clinton accusing her of defamation and demanding an apology. It is important to note that since her first comments on David Plouffe’s podcast, Clinton hasn’t mentioned Gabbard, while the congresswoman from Hawaii has been completely obsessed with Clinton. In addition to her regular appearances on Tucker Carlson’s show, Gabbard recently took her case against Clinton to Brietbart News. As a reminder, this is a woman who purports to be running in the Democratic presidential primary. Her strategies are impossible to understand, unless you realize that her only goal is to be a disrupter.

But it is not just the far right that is giving Gabbard a platform and defending her. In response to the demand for an apology from Clinton, Glenn Greenwald tweeted this.

Keep in mind that Gabbard called Clinton “the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” That came from a woman who calls herself the anti-war candidate after supporting the Russian bombing campaign in Syria, which has been referred to as a war crime. So the guy who railed for eight years about President Obama’s use of drones against Al Qaeda is now stepping up to defend someone who supported war crimes.

Greenwald isn’t the only one of the far left who is defending Gabbard. As you might remember, she endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and went on to be named a fellow at the Sanders Institute. So there is a lot of overlap between Sanders supporters and those who defend Gabbard.

For people like Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, the entire Trump-Russia investigation was a hoax, so that at least partially explains their defense of Gabbard. But it goes deeper than that. It is also a reflection of their antipathy for Hillary Clinton—and the candidate they assume she is supporting in the Democratic primary, Kamala Harris.

The two candidates who came under the most fire from Sanders supporters were Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris. When the latter announced her candidacy, there was an immediate campaign to discredit her history as a prosecutor. Gabbard is the candidate who took up that cause during the Democratic debate in July.

Gabbard delivered a piercing, if inaccurate, appraisal of Kamala Harris’ law enforcement record — then turned it into a misleading, yet effective, online ad push. Adding to the intrigue, she had a hushed sideline conversation with Joe Biden — with whom she seems to have little in common politically — after the debate.

As it turns out, a lot of people have been suggesting that Harris is simply a version of Clinton 2.0. For example, immediately after Harris announced her candidacy, Newsday asked, “Is Kamala Harris the ‘Hillary Clinton of the 2020 POTUS Race?'”

Despite the fact that she’s been repeatedly referred to as “the female Obama,”  and that she formally announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King day, could it be that the most apt description of Democrat Sen. Kamala Harris in the 2020 POTUS race is… Hillary Rodham Clinton?

The comparison comes from the fact that the 54-year-old former California Attorney General appears to be running on a Clinton-esque combination of identity politics and moderate Democratic policy.

The idea that Harris is running as a moderate Democrat will come as a bit of a surprise to moderate Democrats, who tend think she’s too liberal. That is yet another example of how we view the political spectrum through the lens of our own biases.

There have also been stories about how some former Obama and Clinton donors are contributing to Harris’s campaign. More recently, Branko Marcetic explored the ties between Clinton and the “hawkish” foreign policy think tank, Center for New American Security, suggesting that Harris is following in Clinton’s footsteps.

Harris has continued this pattern in the realm of foreign policy, stacking her team with CNAS personnel. One is David Cohen, Obama’s former under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and then deputy director of the CIA, who is now the think-tank’s adjunct senior fellow focusing on technology and national security.  Another is Matt Olsen, the former general counsel for the NSA and former National Counterterrorism Center director, both under Obama, who serves in an identical role at CNAS. Harris’ National Security Advisor Halie Soifer, who had served in that same role for Harris in the Senate, came out of the think tank’s Next Generation National Security Fellow program.

But the most notable name on Harris’ list of foreign policy advisors is Michele Flournoy, who founded CNAS, served as its president for two years, and was once expected to help lead U.S. foreign policy under a prospective President Hillary Clinton.

A less sinister interpretation would be that Harris has stacked her foreign policy team with people who served in the Obama administration. It is worth noting that both Olsen and Flournoy are currently members of the advisory council for National Security Action, a think tank founded by Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes that was recently highlighted by my colleague Eric Cortellessa.

None of those connections is surprising, given that Harris was one of the first elected officials to endorse Barack Obama back in 2007. But when articulated as extensions of Clinton, they are what make Harris both a target and a threat to the far left. Gabbard played her role as disrupter by taking on that threat in the July Democratic debate. As a result, those on the far left have her back.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.