During Wednesday’s fifth Democratic presidential debate, candidate Tulsi Gabbard took a shot at Mayor Pete Buttigieg‘s lack of foreign policy experience. In particular, she highlighted his previous support of sending American soldiers to Mexico to fight drug cartels, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Buttigieg later hit back at Gabbard, citing her decision to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad as proof that she lacks judgment. The Hawaii Representative defended her visit and suggested that Buttigieg’s refusal to meet with other world leaders shows that he lacks the courage to meet with both the friends and enemies of the United States.
The exchange has divided political commentators and journalists.
“Buttigieg just gave Gabbard the smackdown she deserved and noted that while she might not think he has Washington judgement, he has enough judgement to not meet with a murderous dictator,” tweeted award-winning investigative journalist Victoria Brownworth.
“Buttigieg is bashing Gabbard on meeting with Assad. Just killing it,” tweeted conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin.
Others believe Gabbard left the exchange with the upper hand. Progressive commentator Kyle Kulinski thinks that the exchange was “devastating,” saying that Buttigieg was “left speechless with a scared boy face on.”
“It’s definitely comparable to the Kamala moment in that you can see the politician facade drop in real time when Tulsi strikes a nerve.”
Progressive commentator Michael Brooks appeared to agree with Kulinski.
“Tulsi Ethered Pete there,” he tweeted.
Per Politico, Gabbard also sparred with Kamala Harris, who criticized the 38-year-old congresswoman for disparaging the Democratic Party. In particular, Harris highlighted Gabbard’s criticism of Barack Obama’s administration during his time as president. Harris also noted that Gabbard met with Donald Trump following the 2016 election and said Gabbard “buddied up to Steve Bannon to get a meeting” with the president.
“What we need on the stage in November is someone who has the ability to win,” Harris continued.
Gabbard hit back, suggesting that Harris’ attacks were an effort to avoid addressing her goal of achieving leadership and change with her foreign policy goals. According to Gabbard, Harris’ attack shows that she will continue to push foreign policy akin to George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Trump.
Harris and Gabbard previously clashed during a debate over the summer when Gabbard attacked Harris’s record as a prosecutor and state attorney general in California. Gabbard accused Harris of keeping people in prison beyond their sentences to use them for cheap labor, to which Harris responded that she was proud of her record and claimed to have reformed the state’s criminal justice system.