Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard

Representative, Hawaii

Tulsi Gabbard is a four-term member of the House of Representatives from Hawaii and a veteran. First elected in 2012, she serves on the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. She positions herself as an environmentalist and a critic of “regime change wars.”

A major in the Hawaii National Guard, she deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005. Born in American Samoa and raised in Hawaii, she is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University.

China

Gabbard criticizes President Donald J. Trump’s confrontational stance toward Beijing and warns about the downsides of escalating tensions with China. She says a cooperative relationship is needed instead to confront global challenges.

  • Gabbard opposes Trump’s trade war with China, arguing that his approach has been “extremely volatile,” with “ravaging and devastating effects” on both manufacturers and farmers.
  • She believes the trade war with China has not only hurt the U.S. economy, but has also made it more difficult to get Chinese support for any nuclear deal with North Korea. She has said she would work with China to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
  • She says the United States must maintain a cooperative relationship with China in order to address climate change and other areas of mutual concern. 
  • She also warns of the possibility that the trade war could escalate into a “hot war” with a nuclear-armed China.

Climate and Energy

Gabbard highlights her record as a lifelong environmentalist and campaigner for action on climate change, including proposals for sweeping legislation on clean energy. She has spoken in favor of many aspects of the Green New Deal framework.

  • Gabbard supports the Paris Agreement, calling Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the climate deal “short-sighted and irresponsible.” 
  • She has introduced legislation, known as the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, that would require all U.S. electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2035.
  • She calls for “significant investments” in clean energy technology. She says she would end all fossil fuel subsidies, ban fracking, and stop all offshore oil and gas drilling. She opposed the Dakota Access Pipeline that was proposed on indigenous lands in South Dakota.
  • She opposes nuclear power and has distanced herself from the parts of the Green New Deal proposal that seek to expand it. She says there is not yet any permanent solution to the problem of long-term nuclear waste.

Counterterrorism

Gabbard identifies as a “hawk” on Islamist terrorism, supporting U.S. military missions against al-Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State, while opposing regime-change policies that she says create openings for terrorist groups. 

  • Gabbard has harshly criticized U.S. support for militants who are seeking to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, arguing that these groups have close ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. She says Washington should work with Russia and Assad to fight terrorist groups instead.
  • She sponsored the 2017 Stop Arming Terrorists Act, which would have prohibited any federal funds from being directed to these groups.
  • She opposes overthrowing the Assad regime, arguing that it would result in the victory of Islamist terrorist groups. She visited Syria in 2017 and controversially met with Assad and other Syrian leaders.
  • She criticized President Barack Obama for not taking more steps to fight terrorists in Syria, arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin was doing so. She also criticized Obama for failing to use the phrase “radical Islam” to describe the source of terrorist attacks.
  • She says Saudi Arabia is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to export its brand of extremism and support Sunni terrorist groups around the world, including the Islamic State. She has called on Washington to end aid to Riyadh.
  • She has previously opposed the release of suspected terrorist leaders from the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arguing that they would return to the battlefield.
  • She has opposed the expansion of federal surveillance powers, which she says are a violation of basic civil liberties, and she backs legislation to end warrantless surveillance of Americans’ communications.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Gabbard has proposed legislation to make U.S. election systems more robust against hacking. She has also harshly criticized the market power of Silicon Valley giants, which she says gives them undue influence over the political system. 

  • She says that, after Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, U.S. voting systems are still vulnerable to such attacks. She has introduced legislation to mandate the use of paper ballots in every state. 
  • She has warned against escalating tensions with Moscow over election interference because of concerns that a confrontation could lead to nuclear war.
  • She calls the market dominance of large tech companies such as Google and Facebook, which she calls monopolies, “a direct threat to our democracy,” arguing that they censor dissenting views. She proposes breaking up such firms.
  • She accuses Google of censorship for briefly suspending her Google Ads account following the June 2019 Democratic primary debates, and she has filed a federal lawsuit against the company seeking $50 million in damages.

Defense

Gabbard, who saw active-duty military service in Iraq, has based her campaign platform around ending major U.S. troop commitments abroad, reorienting military policy toward more targeted counterterrorism goals, and improving veterans’ care.

  • Gabbard says she will end “wasteful regime change wars” that she says have cost the United States trillions of dollars that should have instead been directed toward health care, infrastructure, and other domestic priorities.
  • She has warned against U.S. military interventions aimed at changing local governments in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere, though she backs targeted counterterrorism missions.
  • She argues that a lack of congressional oversight has led to increased deployments of U.S. soldiers around the world, leading to a “seriously overextended” military. She has introduced legislation to reassert congressional war powers, making it an impeachable offense for a president to authorize military action without congressional approval.
  • She says she would withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan before the end of her first term.
  • She has been vocal on veterans’ issues. She has introduced legislation seeking to grant veterans priority when applying to jobs, give them easier access to physical and mental health care, and reform the Department of Veterans Affairs system. 
  • She has also pushed legislation to address the effects of exposure to burn pits, which are waste sites in combat zones that can expose soldiers to toxic chemicals, leading to neurological disorders, high rates of cancers, and other health effects.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Gabbard is broadly noninterventionist, arguing that the United States should not use its military power to reshape other countries’ political systems, but rather should use diplomacy to find common ground and avoid war even with the most intransigent adversaries.

  • Gabbard says it is the United States’ responsibility as the world’s most powerful country to give up “gunboat diplomacy” and seek to influence the world through “communication, negotiation, and goodwill.”
  • She advocates for reducing tensions with nuclear-armed powers, especially Russia, in order to avoid “sleepwalking” into nuclear war. She says she would call for summits with the leaders of both China and Russia in her first week in office.
  • She argues that the U.S. president must “have the courage” to meet with adversaries. She has praised Trump’s direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and she controversially met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2017, which she claims is evidence of her commitment to diplomacy. 
  • She criticizes Trump’s withdrawals from major global agreements, including the Paris climate deal, the Iran nuclear agreement, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, which limited both countries’ nuclear missile stockpiles.

Economic Policy

Gabbard’s economic policies center on more strongly regulating Wall Street, protecting consumers, rejecting tax cuts for the wealthy, and other policies that she says would create a more equitable society.

  • Gabbard opposed the 2017 tax reform championed by Trump, which she says provided “giveaways to corporations and special interests” while adding trillions of dollars to the “already-reckless deficit.”
  • She advocates for stricter financial regulation and she pushed for criminal investigations of Wall Street executives in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
  • She says she would break up “too big to fail” banks and pursue a new Glass-Steagall Act, referencing a twentieth-century law that mandated the separation of commercial and investment banking. 
  • She has cosponsored legislation to strengthen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created after the 2008 crisis, and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • She has introduced legislation to eliminate in-state college tuition for lower- and middle-class students and to make it easier to discharge student loans through bankruptcy.

Immigration

Gabbard has criticized many of Trump’s immigration policies, including family separations and child detention, while calling for comprehensive immigration reform. She has split with many other Democratic candidates in calling for stronger border security measures. 

  • Gabbard calls for a comprehensive reform of the immigration system that would provide the estimated eleven million undocumented residents living in the United States with a path to citizenship, find “compassionate” ways to secure the border, and increase funding and other support for the U.S. asylum system.
  • She calls on Congress to pass legislation making the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy permanent. DACA was an Obama-era executive action shielding undocumented residents brought to the country as children from deportation.
  • She says the United States must secure its borders, arguing that without borders “we don’t really have a country.” She criticizes several other Democratic candidates for advocating what she calls “open borders” by proposing the decriminalization of illegal border crossings.
  • She has called the housing of migrant children in for-profit detention centers “absolutely despicable” and promises to end Trump’s family separation policies. 
  • She opposes calls from other candidates to “abolish ICE” (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), saying that doing so “doesn’t actually deal with the problem” of abusive detention practices.
  • She has been ambivalent about the need for the construction of a physical wall on the U.S. southern border, saying that increased electronic surveillance would be more effective. 

Middle East

Gabbard’s campaign has been centered on the need to avoid “regime change wars” in the Middle East, while also advocating further steps to fight Islamist radicalism. 

  • Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, says regime-change efforts in places such as Iraq and Libya have given haven to terrorists, cost trillions of dollars, and helped create millions of refugees in the region. 
  • Though she calls Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “brutal dictator,” she opposes his overthrow. She is a harsh critic of U.S. support for Syrian rebels, who she says have close ties to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. 
  • She is a skeptic of the U.S. troop presence in Syria, but criticized Trump’s handling of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, which she says exposed Kurds in the region to “slaughter” at the hands of invading Turkish forces. She calls Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “radical Islamist” who has long supported the Islamic State.
  • She controversially met with Assad during a 2017 visit to Syria, and she opposed Trump’s 2017 and 2018 air strikes on Syrian regime targets, arguing that the U.S. president had no constitutional authority for military action. She has argued for working with Russia, which backs Assad, to fight Islamist militants in Syria. 
  • She wants to distance the United States from Saudi Arabia, which she says exports its brand of extremism around the world, pushes for war with Iran, and carries out “genocidal” war in Yemen.
  • She has supported congressional resolutions to end U.S. support for the Saudi campaign in Yemen. She calls for an end to all U.S. aid to the kingdom as well as for the release of the results of a federal investigation into Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks.
  • She was a “cautious” supporter of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which she called “imperfect,” but she says Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement undermines U.S. credibility and will make it more likely that Iran acquires nuclear weapons. She says war with Iran would be “devastating.” 
  • She considers Israel to be the United States’ “strongest ally.” She has “reservations” about Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

North Korea

Gabbard has favored direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program, and she blames a militaristic U.S. foreign policy for making it harder to reach a deal.

  • Gabbard says Trump’s negotiations with Kim to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula have been “steps in the right direction.”
  • She said a 2018 false alert of an imminent ballistic missile attack on her home state of Hawaii underscored the need for immediate direct talks with Kim.
  • She has said that Kim sees nuclear weapons as his only deterrent against regime change because of U.S. interventions in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, which she calls counterproductive. 
  • She argues that U.S. reversals elsewhere in the world, including Trump’s withdrawals from the Iran nuclear deal and the INF Treaty, have made Kim less likely to compromise.
  • She blames Trump’s trade war for making it more difficult to get Chinese support for any nuclear deal with North Korea. She has said she would work more closely with China to influence Pyongyang.

Russia

Gabbard calls for reducing tensions between the United States and Russia to lessen the chance of nuclear war and to enable cooperation on arms control, terrorism, and other areas of mutual concern. She has also supported sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine. 

  • Gabbard has called for a reduction of tensions with Moscow in places including Syria and Venezuela, arguing that “we are in a better place in the world when we’re not on the brink of nuclear war.” She says she would call for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin during her first week in office.
  • She says that Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections should be addressed through diplomacy. She says U.S. voting systems are still vulnerable to such attacks, and she has introduced legislation to mandate the use of paper ballots in every state. 
  • Her stances have won applause from within the Russian government, including state-backed television networks and Russian diplomats, leading her campaign to issue denials of soliciting any foreign support. 
  • As a member of Congress, she strongly supported sanctions on Russia for its 2014 invasion of Ukraine, arguing that Obama’s sanctions did not go far enough. She also backed sending military aid to Ukraine, a policy rejected by Obama but implemented by Trump.
  • She opposed the Trump administration’s decision to leave the INF Treaty with Russia, which limited both countries’ nuclear missile stockpiles. She warns the withdrawal will set off a “new arms race.”

Trade

Gabbard is a skeptic of multinational trade deals, which she argues have led to large U.S. job losses, lower wages, and a loss of U.S. sovereignty. She also opposes Trump’s trade war with China. 

  • Gabbard is against Trump’s trade war with China, arguing that his approach has been “extremely volatile,” with “ravaging and devastating effects” on both manufacturers and farmers.
  • She believes the trade war has not only hurt the U.S. economy, but has also made it more difficult to get Chinese support for any nuclear deal with North Korea. She warns the trade war could escalate into a “hot war” with a nuclear-armed China.
  • She opposed Obama’s signature Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing that it would cost Americans jobs, harm the environment, and undermine U.S. sovereignty.
  • She is also a fierce critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying it cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs and lowered wages.

Venezuela and Latin America

Gabbard says the United States should not get involved in Venezuela, where the Trump administration has joined most countries in the region in backing opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. 

  • She says Washington should “stay out” of Venezuela, arguing that the United States has no right to choose other countries’ leaders.
  • She accused Trump of “saber-rattling” by stating that the United States may consider using force to intervene in favor of Guaido. She says such a conflict would put the United States on a collision course with Russia, which supports the current government of Nicolas Maduro. 

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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