Smears keep coming at the Democrats’ anti-war candidate, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who ripped into the corporate hosts of last Tuesday’s fourth presidential debate, the New York Times and CNN, from the stage.
Then, on Friday, Hillary Clinton herself kept the smear campaign going, saying in a podcast hosted by Barack Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe that Russia is grooming Gabbard to be a third party candidate.
“I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate,” Clinton said. “She’s the favorite of the Russians.”
Gabbard lashed back at the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee, tweeting in response, “Thank you @HillaryClinton. 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.”
Days before Gabbard appeared on the debate stage in Ohio, she had threatened to boycott the event, because she believes the DNC is rigged against outsider candidates such as herself. She declared that the Democratic National Committee and the “corporate media” were “trying to hijack the entire election process.”
Among other reasons, Gabbard argued that the polls the DNC chose for certifying the candidates for the November debate were not as accurate as many of the non-certified polls that could actually help her qualify. So far, the only candidates who have qualified for November are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
But the media smears, and the evident bias of the debate hosts, were the driving force.
Two days after Gabbard’s threat, the New York Times published what she called “ a greatest hits smear piece.” Gabbard later noted: “These are the folks who will be acting as the neutral questioners/moderators of Tuesday’s debate lol!”
At the debate itself, Gabbard took aim at the hosts: “Just two days ago the New York Times put out an article saying that I’m a Russian asset and an Assad apologist and all these different smears. This morning a CNN commentator said on national television that I’m an asset of Russia. Completely despicable.”
It was actually very kind of Gabbard to not mention the name attached to the CNN smear. Bakari Sellers said hours before the event that he firmly believed that Tulsi is a ‘puppet for the Russian government.”
The fact is that Gabbard, a reservist in the U.S. Army National Guard who took time off her campaign to drill with her unit this summer, is more cautious about the use of military force than other candidates. For that, she is being attacked as a traitor.
But it is a stance that has appeal to members of both parties who are weary of interventionist foreign policies.
Another political outsider, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), is a Tulsi Gabbard fan. Paul praised Gabbard when he said, “She’s the most intelligent and would be the best. “ He also said, “If we had to pick one of them [Democrats] to be our president I think she would be giving us the best chance as for bringing about peace.”
Gabbard is a proud veteran who founded and is the co-chair of the Congressional Post 9/11 Veteran Caucus, which demonstrates her continual work in defending the work her military brothers and sisters continue to do to fight for their country.
At the debate, when Gabbard calmly asked if she could ask Warren a question, she was cut off. Silenced by the very media who smeared her, as if to protect Warren.
Yet Gabbard, as after the second debate, was the most googled candidate after the candidates left the stage.
Apparently American want to hear more from Tulsi despite the smears. The Times called Gabbard’s supporters “unusual Americans”; that has now become a rallying cry.
These “Unusual Amerians” include the ”unconventional mix of anti-interventionist progressives, libertarians, [and] contrarian culture-war skeptics…” that the Times mocked as Gabbard’s base by associating them with extremists.
Gabbard delivered a powerful response in her closing statement at the debate: “I don’t see deplorables. I see fellow Americans worthy of respect even when we disagree strongly.”
Gabbard’s use of the word “deplorables” was a clear allusion Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” a phrase that the former secretary of state used to tarnish her opponent’s supporters back in 2016. It came back to haunt Clinton — as will her declaration that Gabbard is Russia’s favorite.
Gabbard, unlike Clinton and many of the presidential hopefuls in 2020, has sacrificed for her country through her military service in a combat zone, and understands the cost of war from first-hand experience.
That is the simple secret of her appeal. It is amazing how far the corporate media and the party establishment will go in their attempt to stop that message from breaking through.
Nancy Kaufman is a reporter for Los Angeles-area progressive radio station KPFK and taught high school English in the LAUSD for 20 years. She is a registered Democrat who is opposed to interventionist wars for the purpose of regime change.