WASHINGTON — Amid all the talk of Hawaii Congresswoman Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s possible ambitions for national office comes this nugget: She’s writing a book.
The Washington-based literary agency Javelin revealed in a Washingtonian article Tuesday that it has Gabbard, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, on its roster of upcoming authors.
Javelin has long been known for helping political conservatives secure book deals, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. In recent years, Javelin has expanded its client list to include some prominent Democrats, such as former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Donna Brazile.
Another high-profile client is former FBI director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump in May 2017.
So does this mean Gabbard has her eyes on the Oval Office?
These days, writing a book is a common prelude to running for president, such as Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father” and Hillary Clinton’s “Hard Choices.”
“It’s pretty obvious she’s preparing herself for higher office of some sort, and that she’s doing it smartly and intelligently,” said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institutution and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Kamarck, who’s worked on presidential campaigns and was a member of the Democratic National Committee, said politicians write books for any number of reasons.
One is that they think they have an interesting view on the world and have something to say about the future of the country.
She said a book also allows politicians, particularly those seeking higher office, to define themselves and their views before a political rival can set an alternative narrative for them.
“When you write a book — unless it’s just really ridiculous — it gives you some gravitas, and that’s probably a good thing for her to be doing,” Kamarck said. “She might make some money off of it and it might raise her profile outside of Hawaii.”
She said Gabbard is at a disadvantage if she decides to vie for higher office or a national post, such as a position in a presidential cabinet, because she’s from a small state in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Writing a book is one way to increase her profile outside of Hawaii.
“If you’re planning on building a national reputation you’ve got to be creative about it,” Kamarck said. “A book is a good way to do that.”
The congresswoman has declined to answer Civil Beat’s questions about possible national ambitions, while at the same time building a national fundraising apparatus and hiring consultants known best for their work on U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.
Neither Gabbard’s campaign nor Javelin responded to requests for comment about the book. But here’s one way the literary agency describes itself to prospective clients:
“We represent presidential contenders, diplomats, journalists, historians, scientists — and others with a unique and compelling story to share,” its website says. “A majority of our books have become national bestsellers.”
There’s no question Gabbard, who was profiled by The New Yorker in November, has a unique political profile. She’s the first Hindu elected to Congress, and is a minority woman in a white male-dominated profession.
She’s also a member of the Hawaii Army National Guard and has served two tours of duty in the Middle East, which lends her credibility on Capitol Hill.
Her father, state Sen. Mike Gabbard, a Republican-turned-Democrat, was a controversial politician in the 1990s as he crusaded against gay rights while running for Congress as a Republican.
Tulsi Gabbard sided with his beliefs, and famously derided critics of her father as “homosexual extremist supporters” of his political opponent, then-Congressman Ed Case.
She has since said her beliefs have evolved to be more inclusive, and her political stands have grown more progressive.
Once in Congress, Gabbard became one of the state’s most popular politicians outside of former President Obama, who once called the islands home.
She rose to vice chair of the Democratic National Committee only to resign during the 2016 election to support Sanders, a move that endeared her to his progressive-minded backers.
Despite her popularity — particularly with those in the Sanders wing of the party — she has also found herself to be a darling of the right and, at times, the alt-right, in part for her willingness to criticize Obama over his refusal to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Among those who have publicly praised her are David Duke, Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon, who was once Trump’s top advisor. She openly disavowed the support of Duke and Spencer, both of whom supported her anti-interventionist views on Syria.
U didn’t know I’m Polynesian/Cauc? Dad couldn’t use “whites only” water fountain. No thanks. Ur white nationalism is pure evil
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) November 27, 2016
Tulsi Gabbard is brave and the kind of person we need in the diplomatic corps. https://t.co/0OQEcSN9IV
— Richard 🇮🇹 Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) January 27, 2017
Our movement is one of love, aloha, and inclusivity — regardless of race or religion. Your racist and hateful views don’t align with ours. https://t.co/QbErffxoaV
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 27, 2017
Gabbard had met with Trump shortly after he was elected to discuss what she later said were foreign policy issues related to Syria. She’s argued against U.S. involvement in the country as part of her stance to avoid “counterproductive regime-change wars.”
The congresswoman made headlines shortly thereafter by secretly traveling to the country with her husband, Abraham Williams, and former Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich, where they met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The trip brought Gabbard withering criticism from both the left and the right.
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