SIOUX CENTER—Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke via livestream and answered audience questions in the B.J. Haan Auditorium in Sioux Center on Friday night as part of Dordt University’s Presidential Politics Conference of Iowa.
The Democratic candidate for president began her speech with a call for respectful engagement and civility in politics.
Americans need to stand united on the Constitution, she said, “ensuring equality and justice for all.”
“This is something I think we all need to be reminded more of — of what is in our Constitution, what is in our Bill of Rights, because those freedoms can’t be taken for granted,” Gabbard said.
Being reminded of the values and principals laid out in the founding documents will help the country move forward together, she said.
Having served in the Army National Guard for 16 years, achieving the rank of major and been twice deployed to the Middle East has granted her a particular mindset with it some to problem solving, she said.
It’s vital to clearly define the problem being confronted and to set clear, achievable objectives.
“This is something that needs to apply to how we approach tackling any one of the number of domestic issues that we face,” Gabbard said. “It’s also at the heart of our ability to have a foreign policy that actually serves the best interest of our country and the American people.”
Her speech concluded with a call to return to a government that is of the people, for the people and by the people and for political leaders to put service above self.
One of the early questioners asked her about the collision of religious institutions and organizations such as colleges and universities with LGBT rights. The questioner asked her what her approach be to balancing the constitutional rights of both sides.
Gabbard called it a difficult challenge of balancing the rights of religious freedom while making sure that every American is afforded the same political rights by the government.
“This is something that continues to be going through not only our courts, but our public discourse. In my view, the government has the responsibility to ensure nondiscrimination in the most basic things in the workplace, in housing, in education, and so forth,” Gabbard said. “I think this is something that certain areas of our government has a very specific and important role, and in other areas, it is matters of one’s church, temple, synagogue or mosque.”
Another questioner, noting Gabbard’s emphasis on unifying America, asked if she’d consider pardoning President Donald Trump should he ever be prosecuted on the federal level.
First addressing the part about bringing Americans together, Gabbard further iterated her outlook that despite differences, we are all Americans.
For the latter portion, she declined to give an answer to that at this time, saying that she doesn’t like to “traffic in hypotheticals,” and that it doesn’t make sense to give an answer to a problem whose substance isn’t even known yet.
A woman asked Gabbard for a response to Hillary Clinton’s recent remarks (Clinton said that Gabbard was “the favorite of the Russians”). The woman asked why she was subjected to that attack and why, as a female candidate, another female Democrat would say such a thing.
“She is essentially saying that I am a traitor to our country,” Gabbard said. “The only conclusion I can draw from this is that it is because I have and continue to stand up against and in opposition to her entire foreign policy doctrine, which has been a doctrine of interventionism and warmongering.”
Gabbard was also asked how she was attempting to overcome a lack of coverage in the media and lack of speaking time at the Democratic debates.
It comes down to making the most of the time she does have on the stage at the debates, she answered, and to utilize social media and in-person forums such as town halls.
The final question of the night asked for Gabbard’s response to events in north Syria and what she would have done differently in response to Turkey’s military operation.
She pinned this as starting in December 2018 when Trump announced his intentions to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria.
“I publicly spoke out at the time, saying I agreed we need to bring our troops home, but that it must be done in a responsible manner. Unfortunately, President Trump and his administration failed to execute that responsibly,” with terrible consequences, she said.
Instead, she said she would have planned a responsible withdrawal, supporting the Kurds against threats of Turkish invasion and genocide.