Prominent Democrats took aim at Hawaiian Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard over the weekend after she voiced skepticism that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack that left at least 70 people dead and dozens more wounded in Idlib.
Gabbard expressed her skepticism over Assad’s role in the attacks in an interview with CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer that aired on Friday.
— bernie sanders (@BernieSNewschan) April 8, 2017
“Why should we just blindly follow this escalation of a counterproductive regime-change war?” Gabbard said when asked about her doubts regarding the Trump administration’s claims that it has evidence that al-Assad was responsible for the attack.
Gabbard reminded Blitzer that in 2003, the George W. Bush administration insisted it had conclusive evidence that Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq had an active weapons of mass destruction program only to later be proven wrong.
Gabbard’s comments did not sit well with more conservative elements of the Democratic establishment.
Former Vermont governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean suggested that Gabbard should be voted out of office, or perhaps otherwise removed.
“This is a disgrace,” Dean tweeted. “Gabbard should not be in Congress.”
This is a disgrace. Gabbard should not be in Congress. https://t.co/yDTh43GZam
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 9, 2017
Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal Center for American Progress, echoed Dean’s sentiment.
“People of Hawaii’s 2nd District — was it not enough for you that your rep met with a murderous dictator? Will this move you?” Tanden tweeted, referring to a previous meeting Gabbard had with Assad.
People of Hawaii’s 2nd district – was it not enough for you that your rep met with a murderous dictator? Will this move you?1 https://t.co/jbwGuZIJ6R
— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) April 7, 2017
Dean’s and Tanden’s tweets received thousands of likes and retweets, but the vast majority of replies were critical of their statement’s against Tulsi Gabbard.
For instance, a Twitter user named Carl Nyberg asked Dean why he was so quick to forgive former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her mistakes while seeming eager to condemn Gabbard.
“Engaging in dialogue isn’t the problem,” Dean replied. “It’s claiming there is doubt Assad uses chemical warfare. She sounds like Trump making excuses.”
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) April 9, 2017
As of this post, Nyberg’s comment had five times as many likes as Dean’s response.
This is not the first time Gabbard has run afoul of the Democratic Party establishment. She ruffled the party’s feathers when she resigned from her role as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in February of last year to endorse presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The move made her a favorite among Sanders supporters and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but it drew criticism from Clinton supporters and conservative Democrats.
Both Dean and Tanden supported Clinton in the Democratic primary.
While Gabbard is one of the only national politicians to question Assad’s role in the chemical weapons attack in Idlib, an article from Vox notes that several other progressive Democrats have criticized President Donald Trump’s decision to launch a retaliatory missile strike on a Syrian airbase without Congressional approval. Sens. Chris Murphy (CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), along with Sanders, who identifies as an independent, all questioned Trump for taking action without Congressional approval. Reps. Barbara Lee (CA), Ro Khanna (CA), and Ted Lieu (CA) also questioned both the legality and strategic benefit of the missile strike.
Khanna took his criticism further, arguing that Democrats need to question the ethical implications of the missile strike and any support they give for further military action.
“Let’s be blunt: The problem with process arguments is it’s not the substantive question,” Khanna said, as quoted in the Vox article.
“The question is: Where do you stand on issues of war and peace? Do you believe it’s more unilateral military intervention? Did we learn the lessons of Iraq and Libya and that we should not be engaged? I wish the Democratic Party would speak to the substance of that issue.”
Despite opposition from the progressive and anti-war base of the Democratic Party, many of the party’s leaders, such as Sens. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Chuck Schumer (NY), endorsed the missile strike, while questioning Trump’s decision to bypass Congress.
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) April 7, 2017
— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 7, 2017
[Featured Image by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]