The Enduring Mystery of Tulsi Gabbard
The Atlantic Sept 5, 2019 (excerpts):
…RT, the Kremlin-backed news agency, often highlights Gabbard’s campaign. The Russian embassy in South Africa has tweeted defensively about her, Russian bots have boosted her, and neo-Nazis bragged about helping her small-donor count so she could qualify for the first two debates. (She fell just a few polls short of qualifying for the September debate, but might make the stage once again in October.)…
Some Democrats say that everything they find curious about Gabbard tracks back to her particular religious upbringing, which she does not like to discuss but involves an offshoot Hindu group and a revered religious leader with a very committed group of followers, and a father who raised his family in this environment and is currently a Hawaii state senator himself. “Is she doing it for ego? No. The ego is subordinate to the mission laid out for her in life by her guru,” one longtime Democratic observer in Hawaii who has watched her career told me. This person is convinced of their assertion despite never having discussed the topic with Gabbard….
Gabbard’s supporters are a mix of old hippie peaceniks, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, people who obsess over American imperialism, and former Trump voters….At a recent event in Los Angeles, a woman told Gabbard she had cancer, and attributed it to a wire on her roof. “I’m now electrosensitive,” the woman said. She told Gabbard that she lived in her car and wanted to know what the candidate would do about Federal Communications Commission standards. “This is something I’m looking more into as I’m hearing from people like you who are raising these concerns,” Gabbard replied….
I ran into her while she was waiting in line for a vegan sandwich at the Milwaukee Public Market. She was serious about this race, she told me, and she wouldn’t be in it if she thought anyone else running could be commander in chief. I said we should do an interview, and she told me to get in touch with her new press secretary, but she couldn’t remember his last name, and neither could any of the staffers standing nearby whom she asked.
Contrast that with how her sister and a small circle of aides wear earpieces and cluster around her like a security detail….
“We have a small team of very committed people who really believe in this mission,” Gabbard said, “and the kind of leadership that I bring.”
If it’s a leadership question, to many people, Gabbard’s refusal to disavow Assad is disqualifying on its own. In August, the Syria-focused blogger Eliot Higgins wrote a long dissection of her official statements on Assad, which he called an “error filled mess.” In an email to me, he summarized: “The claims she's using are pretty much classic positions used by chemical weapon truthers and pro-Assad war crime denialist, and are littered with errors and contradictory information, so even apart from the political dimension of criticism of her claims there's basic factual criticisms that she should address.” The response on Twitter from the Russian embassy in Washington was forceful: “Higgins is spam-attacking US presidential candidate @TulsiGabbard for posing questions to the MSM-propelled narrative on the alleged #Douma incident. #ThoughtPolice & #ElectionMeddling irony aside, Ms Gabbard visited #Syria herself, unlike certain bloggers ...” ….
The apparent Russian support is perhaps the most curious aspect of Gabbard’s 2020 bid. Another candidate might have gotten flustered when I asked why the Russians seem so interested in her. Not Gabbard. Her voice stayed even, and she moved right past the question, saying, “I don't have any explanation for these things, other than the fact that the world and other countries, including Russia, are in agreeance that we are in a better place in the world when we're not on the brink of nuclear war.”
President Vladimir Putin’s interests in American elections, at least in 2016, seemed less about a world without nuclear war and more about creating chaos in Western democracy, I told her.
"I hear things here and there, but I'm not paying attention to it,” she replied….
Weeks later, Solomon Moore, a Gabbard campaign adviser, responded via text message to questions I asked him about Russian bots' support for Gabbard by demanding evidence of “a bot takeover of primary 2020.” Later still, I received an official statement from the campaign: “We have no knowledge of any foreign entities supporting Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for president. Accepting donations from foreign entities is a violation of campaign laws. Our campaign follows all campaign laws. If anyone were to bring to our attention evidence of foreign donations or non-monetary contributions made to our campaign from foreign entities we would immediately return them and report violations of FEC rules to the authorities.”…
read … The Enduring Mystery of Tulsi Gabbard