Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday thumping
of her only rival for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination has revivied the perception of inevitability that she will be the party's nominee. However, one sitting Democratic member of Congress decided to put her career on the line, days before the slew of primaries, to raise awareness of Clinton's career-long track record of supporting failed military interventions and general unrepentant hawkishness.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) resigned her leadership post on the Democratic National Committee this past weekend, saying she had tired of the requirement to maintain "neutral ground" during the primary process, and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Unlike the conscientious objector she supports for president, Gabbard can't be painted as a naive peacenik. She is an Iraq War veteran and still serves as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard. It is her familiarity with the horrors of war, as well as the big government-gobbling waste produced by it, that informed her decision to split from the party leadership.
During an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this past Monday, Gabbard said, "There has not been a clear conversation about the contrast between our two candidates when it comes to questions of war and peace. So this is why I resigned from the DNC."
Speaking with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night, Gabbard added, "Secretary Clinton has a record and positions that will take us into a future that will include more interventionist wars of regime change."
Gabbard expressed frustration that so little media coverage has focused on the costs of war, saying that Clinton's continued support of military interventionism should be a central issue and not relegated to the fringes of the debate:
This is something that's deeply personal to me, I lost friends in that Iraq War in 2005 during my deployment there. I saw in my job in a medical unit, every day that high human cost, and now here in my job in Congress that economic toll that continues.
MSNBC anchor Brian Williams asked Gabbard if she was worried about "how unpleasant life could be" in Congress if Clinton wins the presidency, to which she conceded that "a lot of people warned me" about the consequences of her decision but she remains resolute because "war is a very real thing. It's real to me. It's real to our service members, their families, those who have borne this heavy sacrifice of war."
To Democratic voters those who dismiss Clinton's foreign policy record as irrelevant or even a net positive, Gabbard pleaded for them to "think again":
Look at the heavy toll that these wars have taken. This isn't a question of the past, this is a question of today and tomorrow and what kind of commander-in-chief we as Americans…can be confident will not continue to take us down this failed path of costly regime change wars that do nothing to strengthen our national security and simply serve to strengthen our enemies, groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and other.
Given Sanders' frequent belly-flops on foreign policy during the debates, it remains unlikely that Clinton's war-mongering will ever become an issue that causes her any discomfort in winning the nomination. Worse, it will probably help her "run toward the center" in the general election.
Still, kudos to Gabbard, a brave woman who put her conscience and demonstrable (as opposed to ceremonial) support of members of the U.S. Armed Services ahead of her political ambitions. Advocating for fewer military interventions is hardly a career-booster in either major party, stepping on the toes of the presumptive nominee is even less so.
Gabbard's denunciation of Clinton's constant lurching toward war deserves to be more than a footnote in this campaign. The likeliness that it won't indicates the Democratic Party's electorate hasn't learned the lessons of the past decade-and-a-half of American military misadventures any more than Clinton has.