Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard took to the presidential debate stage Wednesday and hit many of her top talking points, starting with the first question pitched her way.
She talked about her time in the Hawaii Army National Guard and the need to end the U.S.’s involvement in what she described as “counterproductive regime-change wars.”
She said she wants to halt military adventurism and shift those funds to domestic priorities. “This insanity needs to end,” Gabbard said.
The question, however, was about equal pay.
The Miami event was the first of two presidential debates for the crowded field of Democratic candidates. Ten were on the stage Wednesday, with 10 more scheduled to appear Thursday.
Gabbard stuck out at the event in part because she was wearing her trademark red blazer in a line of dark coats. But mostly she was relegated to the sidelines.
The New York Times tracked each candidate’s speaking time throughout the debate.
Gabbard was close to the bottom, with about 6 1/2 minutes of speaking time, which isn’t surprising for someone who barely registers in the polls and is considered by many to be a long-shot candidate.
Gabbard’s sister, Vrindavan Bellord, took to Twitter to complain about the lack of time, using the congresswoman’s personal, verified account.
Top tier candidates such as Cory Booker, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren, received the most attention, which was to be expected on a crowded stage.
Warren in particular has seen a bump in the polls, some of which have put her on more even footing with other stars in the Democratic Party, such as Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.
Gabbard did, however, get a moment in the spotlight when she sparred with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, over what to do about U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
The debate moderator, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, pointed out that the Taliban recently claimed responsibility for the deaths of two American soldiers in the country.
She wanted to know how Ryan would extract the U.S. from Afghanistan, something neither President Donald Trump or his predecessor Barack Obama were able to accomplish despite their public pronouncements to do so.
“The lesson I’ve learned over the years is that you have to stay engaged in these situations,” Ryan said, while noting his experience on the House Armed Services Committee and work on defense appropriations.
“Nobody likes it. It’s long. It’s tedious. But right now we must be engaged in this.”
Maddow then turned to Gabbard, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, for her response. She took the opportunity to swipe at Ryan.
“Is that what you would tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan, ‘Well, we just have to be engaged’?” she asked. “As a soldier I will tell you that answer is unacceptable.
“We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan,” Gabbard said to the sound of applause from the audience.
“We are in a place in Afghanistan where we have lost so many lives. We’ve spent so much money. Money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets. Money that should be going into communities here at home.”
“I don’t want to be engaged,” Ryan responded, saying he’d rather spend U.S. dollars in parts of America that have been “completely forgotten.”
“The reality of it is that if the United States doesn’t engage, the Taliban will grow and they will have bigger, bolder terrorist acts,” he said. “We have got to have some presence there.”
“The Taliban was there long before we came in they will be there long (after) we leave,” Gabbard interjected. “We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we’re somehow going to squash this Taliban that has been there with every other country that has tried and failed.”
“I’m not saying squash them,” Ryan retorted as the two tried talking over each other. “When we weren’t in there they started flying planes into our buildings.”
“The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11,” Gabbard corrected. “Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. That’s why I and so many people joined the military, to go after Al Qaeda not the Taliban.”
“The Taliban was protecting those people who were plotting against us,” Ryan said.
Although Gabbard spent a significant amount of her time talking about foreign policy issues, she also had the opportunity to express her support for Medicare-for-all.
Gabbard was also asked by moderator Chuck Todd, of “Meet the Press,” to explain why people should trust her views on LGBTQ issues despite her past comments expressing disdain for same-sex marriage.
Gabbard responded with an answer she’s given numerous times over the years, that she grew up in a socially conservative family and that her opinions evolved after she joined the military and served in the Middle East.
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