Tulsi Gabbard is a Democratic Representative for Hawaii’s 2nd district, serving on the Armed Services and Financial Services committees. Born in American Samoa and raised in Hawaii, Gabbard started her political career in 2002 when she staged a successful bid for the Hawaii House of Representatives. During her term, Gabbard enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard and volunteered for a 12-month tour in Iraq. Gabbard was later commissioned as a second lieutenant and deployed to Kuwait in 2008. Gabbard also co-founded an environment education and a pro-military advocacy nonprofit in Hawaii. She announced her campaign in January 2019 in an interview with Van Jones on CNN.
On the Issues
AAI tracks the official and campaign-trail statements of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most.
Click on an issue to read what Tulsi Gabbard has said on the campaign trail.
For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are critical to our community, read here.
- “There are reforms that need to take place to make it so that our votes are being cast and counted and represented in the outcome of our elections... I think there are pros and cons to the existing Electoral College and to getting rid of it.” [3/22/2019, The Concord Monitor]
WASHINGTON POST: Do you support eliminating the electoral college in favor of the popular vote?
Gabbard supports reforming the electoral college or exploring the Proportional Plan but doesn’t want to eliminate it, she told The Post. (6/21/2019, The Washington Post)
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- "Some of you have sent me messages and posted on social media asking for more information about why I voted the way I did on a recent resolution talking about BDS. So I wanted to give you some background and talk about my commitment to defending our First Amendment Rights. Nothing is more fundamental to the identity of our country than the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. Now i've fought to defend these freedoms, both as a soldier and a Congresswoman, and it's why we'll continue to oppose unconstitutional legislation like S.1., a bill that does seek to restrict freedom of speech by imposing legal penalties against those who participate in the BDS movement. That’s why I co-sponsored HRes496 — to affirm our freedom of speech and rights to protest or boycott for any cause, and stating opposition to any legislative efforts that seek to restrict these fundamental first amendment rights. I voted for HRes246 because I support a two-state solution that provides for the rights of both Israel and Palestine to exist, and for their people to live in peace, with security, in their homes. I don’t believe the BDS movement is the only or best way to accomplish that. However, I will continue to defend those who choose to exercise their right to free speech without threat of legal action. Now, HRes246 does not in any way limit or hinder our first amendment rights — in fact, it affirms every American’s right to exercise free speech for or against US foreign policy, as well as the right of Israeli and Palestinian people to live in safe and sovereign states, free from fear and violence, and with mutual recognition. The right to protest the actions of our governments is essential if America is to remain a truly free society. No matter our disagreements about various political positions or choices our government makes, we can agree that all Americans should have the freedom to make those disagreements known and to protest peacefully in support of their views." (7/27/2019, Twitter)
Note: Congresswoman Gabbard became a co-sponsor of HRes496, "Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution" following the vote on HRes246.
- "Today is #Juneteenth, and as we celebrate freedom and equal rights in America, let us remember that civil rights for all Americans did not come easy. It had to be fought for. The motivation that empowered those who fought for the freedom of all Americans was aloha—love. On this day, let us remember the words of Martin Luther King: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”" (6/19/2019, Twitter)
Given your experience in the Hawaii Army National Guard you've served overseas. How specifically would you say that that changes your way of doing business in Congress?
GABBARD: Yeah, you know one of the things that I appreciated so much throughout my time serving in the military, throughout both of my deployments, is how we were serving alongside people from all different parts of the country, different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, people who rarely represent the diverse fabric that makes up our country. We served with a single-minded focus on our mission of service to our country. That to me represents the direction and the kind of leadership that I bring, of putting the well-being of our people first, putting the interests of our country first. (3/21/2019, NHPR)
"I serve on the equality Caucus and recently voted for passage of the equality act. Maybe many people in this country can relate to the fact that I grew up in a socially conservative home, held views when I was very young that I no longer hold today. I’ve served with LGBTQ service members both in training and deployed downrange. I know that they would give their life for me and I would give my life for them. It is this commitment that I’ll carry through as president of the United States, recognizing that there are still people who are facing discrimination in the workplace, still people who were unable to find a home for their families. It is this kind of discrimination that we need to address." (6/26/19, First Democratic Debate transcript in The New York Times)
- "...it has been nearly 100 years since women fought for and won the right to vote. Yet, we still do not have equal rights and protection under the United States Constitution. There are too many examples in our everyday lives where women still do not get equal pay for equal work and where we still face discrimination simply for being women. In 1923, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in Congress to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex and was reintroduced every session until it finally passed in 1972. However, with an arbitrary deadline in 1982, by that time, only 35 States out of the required 38 had ratified the amendment. In the past 2 years, we have inched forward with successful votes in Nevada and Illinois, and now we are just one State away from finally passing the Equal Rights Amendment. This is not about politics. It is about equality. It is about humanity. It is long overdue that we pass the Equal Rights Amendment and include equality between men and women in the United States Constitution." (1/29/2019 U.S. House of Representatives Floor Speech)
Securitization and Surveillance
- "I’ll crack down on the overreaching intel agencies and big tech monopolies who threaten our civil liberties and free speech." (7/9/2019, South Carolina Democratic Convention)
On June 28th, 2019 in the immediate hours following the first Democratic Presidential debate, millions of Americans were searching online for information about Tulsi Gabbard. In fact, according to multiple news reports, Tulsi was the most searched candidate on Google. Then, without any explanation, Google suspended Tulsi’s Google Ads account. For hours, Tulsi’s campaign advertising account remained offline while Americans everywhere were searching for information about her. During this time, Google obfuscated and dissembled with a series of inconsistent and incoherent reasons for its actions. In the end, Google never explained to us why Tulsi’s account was suspended.
Google controls 88 percent of all internet search in the United States – essentially giving it control over our access to information. That’s one reason why Tulsi has been a vocal proponent of breaking up the tech monopolies. And no matter what the motivation was for doing so, Google’s arbitrary and capricious decision to suspend Tulsi’s Google Ads account during a critical moment in our campaign should be of concern to all political candidates and in fact all Americans. Because if Google can do this to Tulsi, a combat veteran and four term Congresswoman who is running for the nation’s highest office, Google can do this to any candidate, from any party, running for any office in the United States. Big Tech’s dominance represents a clear and present danger to our democracy. That’s why Tulsi is fighting back, and has filed a lawsuit against Google in federal court. Today’s New York Times reported on the lawsuit filed by our campaign against Google.
Tulsi gave this statement to the NYT: “Google’s discriminatory actions against my campaign are reflective of how dangerous their complete dominance over internet search is, and how the increasing dominance of big tech companies over our public discourse threatens our core American values. This is a threat to free speech, fair elections and to our democracy, and I intend to fight back on behalf of all Americans.” (7/25/2019, https://www.tulsi2020.com/tulsi-vs-google)
"If it wasn’t for Snowden, the American people would never have learned the NSA was collecting phone records and spying on Americans. As president, I will protect whistle-blowers who expose threats to our freedom and liberty." (6/3/2019, Twitter)
“The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals stood up for protecting our civil liberties, ruling unanimously today that the collection of innocent Americans phone records by the NSA is illegal. The American people deserve to have confidence that the government will balance its' responsibilities of protecting our civil liberties and privacy, and keeping the American people safe. I have authored and cosponsored several measures to overhaul U.S. surveillance law and next week, the House of Representatives is expected to take up the USA Freedom Act, which looks to take further steps toward real reform that protects our civil liberties and increases transparency.” (5/7/2015, gabbard.house.gov)
- "I’m deeply concerned about recent anti-Semitic attacks. We are all equal in the eyes of God." #lovenothate (3/2/2017, Twitter)
Criminal Justice Reform
"As president I’ll end the failed war on drugs, legalize marijuana, end cash bail, and ban private prisons and bring about real criminal justice reform." (7/9/2019, South Carolina Democratic Convention)
- “Our outdated policies on marijuana are turning everyday Americans into criminals, tearing apart families, and wasting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate people for non-violent marijuana charges.”(Gabbard.house.gov)
Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use
- "We as a country must stand up and condemn hatred, bigotry & violence, whether it be based on your religion, color of your skin, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or where you come from. We need leaders who’ll stand up against bigotry. And that leadership needs to start at the top." (5/5/2019, Twitter)
"Religious bigotry and attempts to foment fear of Hindus and other minority religions persist. During my 2012 and 2014 elections, my Republican opponent stated publicly that a Hindu should not be allowed to serve in the U.S. Congress and that Hinduism is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. In the 2016 race for Congress, my Republican opponent said repeatedly that a vote for me was a vote for the devil because of my religion.
Republicans like Ben Carson said in 2016 that a Muslim American would be unqualified to serve as president. Democratic Senators have recently grilled and opposed Republican judicial nominees because of their connection to Catholicism.
These actions and attitudes not only undermine our Constitution but also incite fear and force people into the shadows because of their religion. Our Constitution clearly states that there shall be no religious test for any who seek to serve in public office.
After my 2012 election, I made a personal decision to take my congressional oath of office on the supreme yoga/Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna’s teachings have provided wisdom and spiritual solace to me throughout my life, including when I was serving our country in the Middle East during the Iraq war.
After doing so, I was amazed and surprised to hear from thousands of Hindus from across the United States, and even around the world, many conveying how they finally felt free. They felt they no longer had to hide who they are.
I will never forget looking into the eyes of a young girl from Texas who shared with me how she’d always been embarrassed to be Hindu, especially among her non-Hindu friends.
Like so many other Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, atheists and “others,” she felt she had to hide or change her religious identification to be accepted in America. “Now,” she said, “I no longer feel that way.” She no longer felt she had to hide her beliefs, faith or identity, and she could be herself and pursue whatever goals she wants to in life.
The heartbreaking atrocity in Pittsburgh last year, in which 11 people were murdered while worshipping in their synagogue, is a reminder of the potential consequences of unchecked prejudice and hatred. The shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., and at the mosque in New York, the killing of a young Indian student — the list sadly goes on and on.
At what point do we as a society see the connection between these incidents and the religious bigotry being fomented in our society? We must all stand for religious freedom and call out this bigotry whenever it raises its ugly head.
Enshrined in our Constitution is the separation of state and religion, which means that people’s religion should play no part in their qualification to serve our country in any capacity. When John F. Kennedy ran for president, his political opponents attacked him for being Catholic, insinuating that he would be loyal to the pope and the Catholic Church rather than to our Constitution.
He said: “For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, on other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew, or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist…. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.”
He was right. Yet sadly, so many decades later, our country struggles with the same issue — judging people based on their religion, the color of their skin or where they are from.
Our country was established on the basis of freedom of religion, and the Constitution states there would never be any religious test for any public office. It is a freedom enshrined in our Constitution, and one that every member of Congress takes an oath to protect — a freedom that many heroes have given their lives to defend. Nothing is more important to our democracy than this freedom." (1/26/2019, Religion News Service)
“I think there has to be some, some way, some opportunity there for those who are here and undocumented to try to pursue and have a path toward having a legal, whether it's a legal residence or ultimately a path to citizenship.”
"More than 2.5 million DREAMers in Hawaii and across the country have faced uncertainty and fear of deportation for far too long. Their lives and futures hang in the balance as they dread the possibility that at any moment they could be deported from the only home many have ever known, and sent to a foreign land. This legislation finally provides a pathway to certainty and citizenship that will allow them to come out from the shadows and pursue their goals and dreams.... I urge my colleagues to sign the discharge petition to bring the DREAM Act to the floor for a vote so we can pass a permanent solution for Josué and millions of DREAMers across the country. Our nation made a promise to these young men and women. We must uphold that promise.” (9/28/17, Gabbard.House.gov)
NO BAN Act
- Rep. Gabbard is not a cosponsor of the NO BAN Act.
- "Trump’s “travel ban” is supposedly for our national security. However it doesn’t do anything to make us safer because it’s not based on a legitimate threat analysis - it is instead completely arbitrary and useless." (6/26/2018, Twitter)
“I think there are some challenges with Israel that need to be addressed. I think that ongoing issues that we continue to see in the conflict between Israel and Palestine are complicated. But there needs to be progress made to ultimately to make sure that the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are able to live in peace and securely.” (6/20/19 New York Times)
- “I've always supported Israel's right to exist—especially after visiting Auschwitz in 2005. That's why I'm so concerned with Netanyahu's aggressive annexation policies which will simply stoke the flames of resentment and conflict. Bad for Israel, US, Palestinians, and region.” (4/8/19, Twitter)
"President Trump is the one who tore up the Iran nuclear agreement. If I were President right now, I'd make sure we re-enter that agreement and that we bring Iran back into compliance given the news that we are hearing today. I think the indications that we've heard from Iran throughout this process, since Trump tore up that nuclear agreement." (7/8/2019, CBS)
- "Trump must immediately reach out in back channels to get back into the Iranian nuclear deal, with the provision that Iran will discuss the mutual de-escalation of the militarization of the Middle East — i.e. Iran and its archenemy, Saudi Arabia and Gulf States. (7/24/2019, Twitter)
GABBARD: “I served in the war in Iraq at the height of the war in 2005, a war that took over 4000 of my brothers and sisters in uniforms’ lives. The American people need to understand that this war with Iran would be far more devastating, far more costly than anything that we ever saw in Iraq. It would take many more lives, it would exacerbate the refugee crisis, and it wouldn’t be just contained within Iran. This would turn into a regional war. This is why it’s so important that everyone of us, every single American stand up and say no war with Iran. We need to get back into the Iran nuclear agreement And we need to negotiate how we can improve it. It was an imperfect deal. There are issues like their missile—their missile development that needs to be addressed. We can do both simultaneously to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and preventing us from going to war.
HOLT: Your time is up. And this is a very quick follow-up. But what would your red line be that would -- for military action against Iran?
GABBARD: Look, obviously, if there was an attack against the American -- our troops, then there would have to be a response. But my point is -- and it's important for us to recognize this -- is Donald Trump and his cabinet, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and others -- are creating a situation that just a spark would light off a war with Iran, which is incredibly dangerous. That's why we need to de-escalate tensions. Trump needs to get back into the Iran nuclear deal and swallow his pride, put the American people first. (6/26/19, First Democratic Debate transcript in The New York Times)
- "President Trump seems determined to go to war with Iran, even after he campaigned on the platform of ending regime change wars. Trump's move yesterday to deny sanctions waivers to countries purchasing Iranian oil drives us closer to war with Iran, increasing tensions in the region, and putting the U.S. at odds with many of our allies. His actions make our country less safe, damaging our non-proliferation efforts and negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.The Trump Administration continues to do the bidding of Saudi Arabia without regard for our own national security and economic interests. It is in our national security interest to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, and in that regard, lift the sanctions that are hurting the Iranian people. Whatever concerns we may have apart from Iran's nuclear program can be dealt with in separate agreements."(4/23/19, House Office Press Release)
U.S. Presence in the Arab World
GABBARD: You know, I'm a soldier currently serving the Army National Guard now for almost 15 years, deployed twice to the Middle East, and in Congress for over six years, have served on both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. These experiences are unique in this field of candidates who are running for president, a job that the most important responsibility the president has is to serve as commander in chief. And so the experience, the qualifications, and the credibility that I bring to this job come from those experiences, and it's why I'm running for president. Essentially I'm running for president to bring about an end to our wasteful regime change, war policies, to bring about an end to this nuclear arms race, and take the trillions of dollars that we are spending on these wars and these weapons, that are making us less safe and that are increasing suffering, and people in different countries in the world, take those dollars and bring them back into our pockets to serve the needs of our people and things like health care and education and infrastructure and so much more.(3/21/2019, NHPR)
So on the matter of foreign policy you've called for a sea change in foreign policy and you've suggested that you're the most qualified candidate to carry out that sea change. Before we get into what that change is, tell us why you're most qualified.
GABBARD: It is because of the experiences that I have that I bring that depth of understanding and knowing firsthand the cost of war, the experiences overseas, specifically serving in the armed forces. You know I, during my first deployment to Iraq 2005, really during the height of that war, where we were experiencing a lot of high casualties and I served in a medical unit. During that deployment we were based in a camp about 40 miles north of Baghdad and the very first thing that I did every single day that I was there was go through a list of names of every single American casualty that had occurred the day before, and I had to go through that list of names to see if there were any of the soldiers from our brigade combat team of almost 3000 soldiers to make sure that if they were hurt they were getting the care that they needed or to get them evacuated as quickly as possible. It was a heart wrenching. It was a heart wrenching experience knowing that these are my brothers and sisters who are paying the price for this war, for a decision that politicians made that was counterproductive to our country's interests. That was counterproductive to the interest of the people in that country and represented yet another example of these wasteful regime change wars. This experience educated and informed me and I came back from both of my deployments motivated to wanting to be in a position to do something about it to do something to end these policies and these regime change wars.
So the sea change that you've been referring to is that simply referring to the end to regime change type wars that the United States engages in.
GABBARD: It's again it's focusing on putting the interests of the people first in this country, putting the interests of our country first and ending these wasteful regime change wars is a huge part of it. But it's also looking at how are we building relationships with other countries in the world. You know for too long I think across both administrations we have seen this this fossilized mentality of a zero sum game that you're either with us or against us, that in order for the United States and for the American people to win, other people in other countries must lose. As a result of this we're seeing, for example, how we're in a position today where we're at a greater risk of nuclear catastrophe than ever before given the increasing tensions between the United States and other nuclear armed countries like Russia and China. They're always going to be disagreements or issues that we need to resolve with other countries. But we have to be willing to have those open lines of communication and be willing to cooperate on the areas of common interest and shared interests that makes our country stronger and that makes frankly the world better and gives us a greater opportunity for peace.(3/21/2019, NHPR)
- "Hey @realdonaldtrump: being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not 'America First.'" (11/21/2018, Twitter)
- “If you look at those two situations: Are the Libyan people’s lives better off today because of what we did in overthrowing Gadhafi? Are the American people safer today? Because of going in and overthrowing Gadhafi? The answer to both of those questions is, absolutely not.” (1/20/2018, The Intercept)
So under what conditions would it be acceptable in your mind, or necessary in your mind if not acceptable, for the United States to say you know what, this particular country, there are atrocities that we just as Americans cannot stand for. We have to intervene. Is there a circumstance under which that's necessary and if so what are the circumstances?
GABBARD: You know looking throughout history we see so many different examples of U.S. led regime change and intervention. There are bad people in the world; there are brutal dictators in the world. The United States has proven time and time again that we cannot and should not try to act as the world's police when we do so we end up increasing the suffering of the people in those countries. We end up making our country less safe. As I mentioned our service members and veterans end up paying a huge price along with their families, and the trillions of dollars that come out of the pockets of hard-working Americans every single day to pay for these wars make it so we don't have the resources that we need to best serve their needs just in the recent past. We see examples like Iraq Libya and Syria and in each of these examples we see the counterproductive consequences and the negative consequences of these wars taking place.
With respect to Syria you've been criticized for your position on Syria in 2017. You met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. For New Hampshire primary voters who maybe have not heard from you on this yet. Why did you meet with him?
GABBARD: In the pursuit of peace, with an understanding that unless we are willing to have those conversations, unless we are willing to pursue that diplomatic path, meeting and talking, with whether it is adversaries or potential adversaries, the only alternative to that is more war. So I went there to Syria to hear firsthand from the Syrian people about what was happening there and about how the United States policies were impacting them. So not only did I meet with Assad, I also met with religious leaders who were very concerned about the continued rise of terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, and their expression was: if you if you topple Assad, if you topple this regime, the most powerful force on the ground were terrorist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. They will be the ones to step in and there is a certainty that they will completely massacre all religious minorities there in Syria. I met with some of the leaders who led the political protests in Daraa in 2011. People who were very strongly opposed to the Assad government and would like to see a change. Their message was - we want to be the ones, the Syrian people need to be the ones, to bring about this change, to bring about reforms, to their constitution, to open up their elections. They were against the United States intervention by Saudi Arabia, France, and Qatar, and other countries, speaking out strongly that they want to bring about this change in and not violently but peacefully.
Assad's government has been accused by the UN of committing war crimes, torture, nerve gas attacks. Is this the kind of leader not just for Syria but in other countries that the United States should be directly engaging with in this way?
GABBARD: Well two things. First of all we have to look at the unfortunate reality that exists, and this is the pragmatic reality, that if the United States goes in and starts to topple dictators that they don't like, like Assad, we have to understand who will take over, what force will take over, and how that will worsen the situation, increase the suffering, increase refugees in Syria. I think we have to look at the reality of what's happening on the ground there, where there may be actors and countries that we don't particularly like or who we disagree with. But if there are terrorist groups for example like ISIS and al Qaeda there, there is a shared interest that we have, in defeating those terrorist groups and we should work with whom we need to do to accomplish that.
Jackie wrote in to ask: how do you feel about our use of economic sanctions?
GABBARD: You know this is such an important question because too often these sanctions ultimately result not in, basically, they ultimately result in increasing suffering for people in these countries. So often these sanctions are implemented to either accomplish a political objective or to basically be used as a punishing tool against someone that the United States deems to be a bad actor. But Syria is a good example where there are sanctions by the United States and by the U.N. and other countries in the world, that are not accomplishing maybe the kind of change they were intended to carry out but instead are completely inhibiting this country and the Syrian people from beginning to rebuild their lives. I met when I was there with small business owners in Aleppo and they were talking about how there is that they can't open a bank account to do business with people across the border in Lebanon for example. There are two women who had an amazing story of their small business that they created of sewing and how they were hiring other women. Their business was completely destroyed by the war, they were trying to rebuild. But they said that their only option because of all of these massive sanctions is basically to operate on a cash only black market. So we've got to look at these different sanctions regimes, look at what is their objective because, if a sanction is put in place it needs to have a clear objective that we're trying to accomplish, at which point that sanction would be lifted. Too often that's not the case, it's just saying we're going to punish you because you're bad. And here are some sanctions to do that without really thinking through what are the consequences. And secondly we've got to look at again who is most being impacted. So this is legislation that I'm working on drafting right now because, believe it or not ,there is there is no mechanism in the United States government right now that actually assesses all of the sanctions that the United States has on individuals and other countries around the world to see, hey, is this actually accomplishing what we intended. What are the negative unintended consequences and then being able to adjust and shift course as necessary.(3/21/2019, NHPR)
Asked if she still favors a small footprint approach with limited use of weaponized drones against groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda: “With these terror cells, for example, yes, I still believe that the right approach to take is these quick-strike forces, surgical strikes in and out, very quickly, no long-term deployment, no long-term occupation, to get rid of the threat that exists and then get out and the very limited use of drones in those situations where our military is not able to get in without creating an unacceptable level of risk.” (1/20/2018, The Intercept)
- “I feel strongly that if we truly care about the Syrian people, that if we truly want to do what we can to bring about an end to their suffering, then we have to be willing to meet with anyone that we need to if there’s a possibility that peace could be achieved,” Gabbard said. “This is the same reason why I’ve been calling for us to have direct talks with Kim Jong Un. Regardless of our opinion of these people, whether they be adversaries or dictators or others, the reality is that there is no possibility of peace unless we are willing to talk and engage directly.”(1/20/2018, The Intercept)
- “If President Assad is found to be responsible after an independent investigation for these horrific chemical weapons attacks, I’ll be the first one to denounce him, to call him a war criminal and to call for his prosecution in the International Criminal Court, make sure that those consequences are there.” (4/7/2017, CNN)
- "Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States." (2/6/19, CNN)