Gabbard and Harris clash over visions for the Democratic Party

Dylan StablefordSenior Writer

At the Democratic debate in Atlanta on Wednesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Sen. Kamala Harris of California clashed over their differing visions for the party, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.

Gabbard had criticized Hillary Clinton as the “personification of the left that has sickened the Democratic Party” after the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee suggested in an interview last month that she believed Republicans were “grooming” Gabbard to be a spoiler as a third-party candidate. Clinton, who did not mention Gabbard by name, further suggested that the Hawaii Democrat is “the favorite of the Russians.”

“Our Democratic Party is unfortunately not the party that is of, by and for the people,” Gabbard said during the debate when asked about her criticism of Clinton. “It is a party that has been and continues to be influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington represented by Hillary Clinton and others’ foreign policy, by the military industrial complex and other greedy corporate interests.”

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Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran and a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, has been critical of what she calls “regime-change wars” against dictators.

“This is personal to me,” she said. “I saw the terribly high human cost of war.”

She added: “I’m running for president to be the Democratic nominee that rebuilds our Democratic Party, takes it out of their hands and truly puts it in the hands of the people of this country.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. (Photos: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. (Photos: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked to respond, Harris attacked Gabbard, who has met with Syrian President Bashar Assad, a dictator and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and had been critical of President Barack Obama on national security.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States who during the Obama administration spent four years on Fox News criticizing Obama,” Harris said.

Harris lashed out at Gabbard for taking a meeting with then-President-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower in November 2016 (Gabbard said they had a “frank and positive” discussion) and for failing to call Assad a “war criminal.”

“What we need on this stage, in November, is someone who has the ability to win,” Harris said. “And by that, we need someone on that stage who has the ability to go toe-to-toe with Donald Trump. And someone who has the ability to rebuild the Obama coalition and bring the party and the nation together. I believe I am that candidate.”

Gabbard smiled, but sounded unamused: “What Sen. Harris is doing is unfortunately continuing to traffic in lies and smears and innuendos because she cannot challenge the substance of the argument that I’m making, the leadership and the change I’m seeking to bring in our foreign policy, which only makes me guess, as president, she will continue the status quo.”

“No, I won’t put party interests first,” she added. “I will put the interests of the American people first.”

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