Tulsi Gabbard, the 35-year-old US congresswoman from Hawaii, and a rising star in the Democratic party, is an unconventional ally for Donald Trump. But when the two met on Monday afternoon (Nov. 21), they had a lot of common ground between them.
Gabbard, the first Hindu, the first American Samoan, and one of the first female combat veterans elected to Congress, has been described by the Washington Post as the Democrat whom Republicans love and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) can’t control. Like Trump, she has an independent streak. And like Trump, she has spoken out fiercely against Islamic terrorism, the proposal of a no-fly zone in Syria, and foreign trade deals including NAFTA and the TPP.
In a statement issued after their meeting, Gabbard indicated that Syria was the primary topic of discussion.
“President-elect Trump asked me to meet with him about our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face,” said Gabbard, who has co-sponsored legislation to limit America’s role in the Syrian conflict. “I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government.”
Gabbard noted that “the rules of political expediency would say I should have refused to meet with president-elect Trump,” but she was not the first Democrat to meet with Trump, and she is hardly a traditional Democrat.
In 2015, she criticized US president Barack Obama’s argument that the rise of ISIL could be traced to poverty and a lack of education rather than Islam itself. Gabbard remarked on Fox News that Obama was “completely missing the point of this radical Islamic ideology that’s fueling these people.”
And in February, Gabbard resigned as vice chair of the DNC to endorse Hillary Clinton challenger Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. (DNC rules would have required her to stay neutral during the race.)
In her endorsement of Sanders, Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, argued that the US needed a president who would “not waste precious lives and money on interventionist wars of regime change.”
Gabbard says she brought a similar message today to Trump, who has signaled his opposition to the current administration’s support of Syrian rebels.
“I shared with him my grave concerns that escalating the war in Syria by implementing a so-called no fly/safe zone would be disastrous for the Syrian people, our country, and the world. It would lead to more death and suffering, exacerbate the refugee crisis, strengthen ISIS and al-Qaeda, and bring us into a direct conflict with Russia which could result in a nuclear war,” Gabbard said.
The meeting set off a wave of rumors that there may be a role for Gabbard in the Trump administration. CNN, citing an unnamed source, reported that she was being considered for a post at either the Defense Department, State Department, or the United Nations.
A spokesman for Trump tells The Washington Post that it’s “a little premature” to be considering specific jobs in the administration. But Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, is reportedly a “big fan” of Gabbard, according to Washington publication The Hill.