Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard on the Van Jones Show - January 12, 2019

Tulsi Gabbard
January 12, 2019
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JONES: My next guest might be doing both of those things. Please welcome to The Van Jones Show, Democratic Representative from Hawaii, my good friend Tulsi Gabbard in the house. Welcome to The Van Jones Show. So happy to see you. You were out there marching with some of these furloughed workers. I know your heart is breaking for them. Is it time for the Democrats to give up something? I mean, should we say, look all right we just can't take it anymore, just give this guy what he wants, give him something, what has to happen?

REP. TULSI GABBARD (D), HAWAII: The problem here, Van, is this is one of those issues where there are serious challenges and problems that need to be addressed. The challenge of border security, the challenge of comprehensive immigration reform, these are real issues that need to be - that need to be solved. But what is unfortunate about the current situation is partisanship has gotten in the way.

JONES: Right.

GABBARD: Both sides have drawn their lines in the sand; wall, no wall, which really is the issue here.

JONES: Well, what is the issue?

GABBARD: The issue here is securing our borders.


GABBARD: Because unless we have a secure border, we don't really have a country. The second thing is immigration reform. You know, we still have dreamers in this country, people who came here as kids, through no choice of their own, who are still facing uncertainty about their future, along with a whole host of other issues related to immigration. I think that that conversation needs to happen; what does it mean to secure our border? We see members of Congress who are representing districts along the border, Democrats and Republicans, who are saying a wall makes sense maybe in some areas, but in other areas we have better technology that will accomplish the objective of securing our border. And this is the problem with so many issues in politics today. And in Washington is you have leaders who get stuck in these partisan arguments without actually recognizing what is the objective.


GABBARD: This is something I learned in the military.

JONES: In the military.

GABBARD: You know from day one, unless you know what your objective is, you will never have a strategy or a path to accomplish that objective, and that's the problem here.

JONES: I think Trump just makes it hard for people's brains to function, just kind of drives people nuts. You've actually been able to find some places where you actually agree with Trump. You met with him early, that shocked a lot of people, first step back criminal justice, we both agreed on that; but also on trade TPP. What is your philosophy for dealing with a Trump, as somebody who is a Democrat - strong Democrat, wants to appeal to Democrats? That's a tricky balance you try to do sometimes.

GABBARD: By not thinking about any of those things that you just talked about. By not factoring those into my equation at all, by thinking first and foremost how best can I serve the people of this country, what are we trying to accomplish to make their lives better every single day. If we put the well-being of the people first and remember that we are here to serve them, then those other considerations and political calculus and all this, oh I don't want to be in the same room with this person or that person, that's worthless because people's lives are at stake.

JONES: I mean you are unique in that regard though, you have that Aloha spirit and you are willing to meet with people and talk to people. And some people have gotten mad at you because you take - take something like Assad, right, that's an issue. Syria, the civil war, you actually went, you met with Assad. This guy is a butcher, he's a dictator, he's a horrible person, but you went and sat down and talked with him. Some people said too friendly, talking points sound too much like him. Did you get yourself in trouble with this attitude that you have of talking to everybody and reaching out?

GABBARD: As a veteran, I've deployed twice to the Middle East and I've seen personally the extremely high cost of war on the lives of our service members who sacrifice so much, on their families, and the lives of people in these other countries where we launch regime change wars, whose lives are destroyed, whose country is completely devastated, people who suffer not just during these wars but for decades to come. I also serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress and the Armed Services Committee. And through those lenses also understand how important it is for our national security, as well as our pursuit of peace. That we've got to be willing to have those conversations, to meet with people, whether they are adversaries, potential adversaries, friends. Because if we are not willing to have those conversations, the only alternative is more war, more suffering, more devastation, more lives lost. JONES: I think your compassion for people, this interesting mix of yours, you are a tough soldier but you're also mainly a soldier for peace, you don't want war. I think it's hard for people to square the circle though of Assad being such a bad, bad actor. I think that people said, oh is she now an apologist for Assad, is she now with Assad, is she now like Assad?

GABBARD: What I have done, having been someone who served in the Iraq War, as someone who lost friends in that war, who never came home, as someone who has seen those who did come home still struggling and fighting with the invisible wounds of war, all because we had a President and a cabinet who lied to the American people to launch this war, and people in Congress and the Senate who said yes we believe you, let's go and send our troops into combat. This is why I have the skepticism that I do, because I have been there and falling for those lies.

JONES: Well, the other significant choice is to withdraw. There's a choice to go, the choice to pull out. Trump says he's pulling out of Syria, is that a wise decision, is it wisely executed?

GABBARD: I think it's a wise decision given the reason why he and his cabinet have said they want to keep troops in Syria, is not to defeat or counter ISIS and Al Qaeda which is the authorization with which our troops are there in the first place, but because they wanted to keep our troops there to go against Iran, which this administration has made no qualms about saying that they would like to see regime change in Iran, they want our troops to counter Iran. So for that reason, our troops need to come home. The execution seems to change every day of the week with this administration.

JONES: That's hard to figure out. You're a hawk on terrorism.


JONES: But you're a dove on regime change wars.


JONES: What's the difference between fighting terrorism and fighting regime change wars, what does that mean?

GABBARD: I'm glad you asked because there is a vast distinction. Whether we like it or not, we have terrorist groups in different parts of the world, those who attacked us on 9/11 in this country, who threaten the safety and security of the American people. We need to make sure that we defeat those threats so that our people can be safe. My opposition to regime change wars comes from not only my personal experience, but looking throughout history at what the consequences of those wars are.

JONES: What's wrong with that, if there's a bad guy? GABBARD: The consequences. Time and time again, we see how our intervention regime change wars have not only not made the lives of the people in those countries better, the lives of people in those countries have been made far worse specifically because of our regime change wars, not better. To speak of the fact that it has made us less safe. The trillions of dollars that we spend on these regime change wars are dollars that are not going to fixing our infrastructure, they are not going to improve our healthcare system, not going to improve our education system, not going to rebuild our communities right here at home.

JONES: It seems like you see things differently because you have done things differently. You are a veteran of these - this most recent round of wars. I think the wisdom of your generation and veterans is something that we're going to need maybe in much higher office, we'll talk about that when we get back. A lot more with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard when we get back. She said she's strongly considering running for President in 2020. I'm going to see if I can get her to tell me something, if she's going to maybe stand down the crowded field (ph), when we get back.

JONES: Welcome back to The Van Jones Show, I'm talking to Tulsi - stop it. (LAUGHTER) I'm talking to Tulsi Gabbard. Listen, you're barely old enough to even run for President, you are still in your mid-thirties. You were the - I think the youngest woman ever elected to state legislature. When you got to Congress, you were the youngest woman. Why did you decide so early in life to commit to public service, why'd you do all that stuff at such a young age?

GABBARD: Growing up in Hawaii, I had not only the fortunate experience of learning about what it means to live Aloha, which - Aloha is more than just hello and goodbye. Aloha really means that we recognize each other as brothers and sisters. And that when we say Aloha to one another, we're saying that I'm coming to you with an open heart and with love and compassion and care and respect. And so, I gradually experienced even from a young age that I was most happy when I was doing things to help other people.

JONES: You were sitting in an office, you could have gone off to do something else.


JONES: You decided to quit and go and put yourself in a war zone, why'd you do that?

GABBARD: You're right. I mean, being a state representative in Hawaii, being with my family, being with my friends, it was something that I would have been very happy to continue to do, but I knew that there was no way that I could stay home and be safe and comfortable, while my brothers and sisters went off to war on the other side of the planet. That's why I left my reelection campaign, volunteered to deploy, got trained in a job that they needed someone to fill, and went to serve with them, to serve our country.

JONES: Well now that you are in Congress, you got a whole bunch of even younger people coming up behind you. They're calling the President MFers and doing sit-ins and all kind of weird stuff. So how will you evaluate this new batch of young women coming in?

GABBARD: There's a huge group of new members of Congress that were just sworn in on January 3rd. And I'll tell you, just sitting there on the House floor, the energy was different.


GABBARD: Because of the new stories, the diversity, the new experiences that were coming to serve in the people's House, knowing that they were representing so many other people, maybe many people whose voices had never been heard before. So there's so much positive energy, and I think the most important thing now is what we started out with, which is we've got to focus that energy on actually getting things done for the people and not just partisan name-calling.

JONES: That brings me right back to where I want to go, which is about 2020. Are you going to run for President of the United States and do something about it, don't you think you should, don't you think she should?

GABBARD: I have decided to run and we'll be making a formal announcement within the next week.

JONES: Whoa.

JONES: I got some ratings. That's amazing.

GABBARD: But there are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I'm concerned about and that I want to help solve. Issues relating to making sure that people who are sick get access to the health care that they need, making sure that people who are stuck in our broken criminal justice system, and the families that are torn apart are being helped, that are being served, making sure we're taking action to protect our planet for us and for the future. There's a whole host of issues that I'm looking forward to addressing. And there is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace, and I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.

JONES: Well, first of all, it's amazing to hear that you're going to run. What makes you want to run to be President in the middle of this mess?

GABBARD: In my camp that we were at in Iraq, there was a big sign that was at one of the main gates where the patrols would go in and out every day, and that sign read in big block letters, Is Today The Day. And we saw this sign almost every day and it was a reminder that any moment, any day could be our last, causing me to think about how am I living my life, how am I making the most of the time that I have, because my day could come tomorrow, my day could come in a year, could come in ten years. Who knows, none of us knows the answer to that question. And so, I carry that with me every single day of my life and do my best not only to live my day as if it could be the last, but to make sure that the time that I have, I'm doing the very best I can to be of service to others, to be of service to the people of this country.

JONES: Well, it's beautiful to hear that, your (inaudible) dedication. Look, what are your first steps, how do you see this race? This is a very crowded field possibly. How do you see yourself moving from where you are now, a well-known but very young Congresswoman, to being the nominee of your party and the President of your country, what's - what are your next steps, what do you see as your challenges?

GABBARD: Oh like I said, we'll be making a formal announcement hopefully within the next week, and from there kicking off a tour to be able to go and visit with people in all parts of the country, both to hear their stories and to be able to share and have these discussions about the direction that we need to see forward for our country, to build that brighter future with peace and prosperity for everyone. JONES: I'm all for peace and prosperity and not war and austerity. Help me though, you must have looked at some of the other people who are running. Bernie Sanders, you did something that nobody thought you were going to do, probably most people thought you shouldn't have done, they had anointed you to be the next great queen of the Democratic Party establishment, they made you a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee and you threw that away in the last election cycle and you endorsed Bernie Sanders. Why did you do that?

GABBARD: First of all, my goal has never been to be queen of the Democratic establishment.


GABBARD: No, never once entered my brain. So let's just put that one aside.

JONES: That was the first thing (ph) in the first place, okay.

GABBARD: It comes back to doing what's right.

JONES: (inaudible) was right?

GABBARD: Doing what I believe is right.

JONES: What was right about that?

GABBARD: In that election, I was the Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, something that I was surprised that to be asked to do just a few weeks after I got elected, but went in trying to make a positive impact. But in that position, you're supposed to remain neutral in primaries, Democratic primaries. But as the primary election kicked off in 2016, I saw very quickly that I could not stand silently on the sidelines as a veteran when I saw that the issues of war and peace, the issue of the cost of war was not being brought forward in this most important decision about who our next commander-in-chief would be. There were very stark differences between Secretary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on this issue. And ultimately that was the main reason why I resigned and left that position and endorsed Bernie Sanders to bring forward what those contrasts were, so people could make an educated choice.

JONES: Well, what if Bernie runs? You just announced, what if Bernie now announces, what are you going to do? GABBARD: Bernie's a good friend. We've talked--


GABBARD: I don't know what his plans are.

JONES: Right.

GABBARD: But I know that both of our hearts are focused on serving and fighting for the American people.

JONES: This party is such a demographic kind of jigsaw puzzle. There's African-American vote, and the women's vote, and this vote and that vote. I mean, you are the - you are a female veteran, Hindu, blah blah blah. I mean how do you deal with putting this jigsaw puzzle together?

GABBARD: This is part of the problem with why our country is becoming as divided as it, is because people are focusing - self-serving politicians are focusing on dividing the American people based on these labels, and well you fit in that box and you can't step outside of that box, rather than actually getting to the heart of who are we as Americans, what are the values and the freedoms and the principles that we stand for regardless of the color of our skin, regardless of the way we choose to worship or if we choose to not worship at all. These things that make our country diverse are all centered around this strong foundation of these core principles and values that are enshrined in our constitution. And recognizing that connectedness that we have will give us that strength and courage that is necessary to overcome those self-serving politicians and greedy corporations and those who are acting for their interests, and not the interest of the people.

JONES: Well, that's kind of a populist message, but it doesn't sound like the kind of populism I hear from Donald Trump. So how would you take on a Donald Trump? I mean you seem kind of Aloha, he seems kind of a low uh-huh. He's not trying to Alo with your ha.

GABBARD: Aloha, which essentially means love, love for each other, love for our country, should not be mistaken for just some feeling. Love is action. When you love someone, you will do anything to fight for them. When you love something, you will go to the end of the earth to fight for it. Love gives us strength, love gives us courage, love gives us what we need to overcome those forces of darkness. One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Martin Luther King and you know this, where he says, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

JONES: Give her a round of applause.