On November 21, 2016, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard met with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss U.S. policy on Syria. According to NBC News, Gabbard called the encounter “frank and positive.”
Gabbard is known for having strongly supported Senator Bernie Sanders in his presidential bid this year, so much so that she resigned from her post as vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to help promote his campaign. She was also an outspoken opponent of Trump, having referred to him as someone who “suffers from ignorance, bigotry, and arrogance” in a Facebook post last August.
In response to widespread criticism for meeting with the president-elect, Gabbard published a statement on Medium.com, justifying her decision by claiming that although “[i]t would have been eas[y]…to refuse this meeting,” she is not someone to “play politics with American and Syrian lives.” Gabbard also stated that she considered the meeting with Trump to be “an opportunity to advocate for peace,” and that it was time to “put our country first, and come together, regardless of political party, and tackle the many challenges we face.”
Gabbard was not joking when she said “put our country first.” A closer inspection of Gabbard’s statements on Syria reveal that she is not exactly an “advocate for peace,” and is, indeed, playing politics with the lives of Syrians as an “advocate for America.”
In her Medium statement, Gabbard suggested that attempts to remove President Bashar Al-Assad from power must stop, and, instead, the United States should redirect its “focus…on defeating al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorist groups who pose a threat to the American people.”
These positions echo Trump’s own views on Syria. In an interview with CBS shortly after his election, Trump said he believes the United States should focus less on defeating Assad and work with Russia in order to pursue groups like ISIS, which are more of a threat to American lives. He even claimed that the Syrian rebels are “probably worse than Assad.”
To Gabbard and Trump alike, it is irrelevant that Assad is far more of a threat to Syrian lives than even the most vicious terrorist groups. Without giving any serious attention to the aspirations of the Syrian people, and by tacitly defending Assad as the “lesser evil,” Trump and Gabbard only see the Syrian conflict in terms of its potential impact on American lives.
Because of this, those who support the Syrian people’s right for dignity and freedom have every right to call Gabbard exactly what she once called Trump: ignorant, bigoted, and arrogant.