The Ramped Up Smear Campaign Against Hawai’i’s Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard Is There a Coordinated, Orchestrated Campaign to Derail Gabbard?

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Within days of Tulsi Gabbard announcing her plan to run for president last week, a smear campaign moved into high gear. It’s almost as if there’s a coordinated, orchestrated campaign to derail her as so called progressive medial outlets have unleashed a torrent of attacks.

Clinton booster and DNC chairman emeritus unleashed the latest verbal assault on January 17 on CNN’s New Day show. The Hill  headlined its coverage: “Howard Dean to CNN: All Dem candidates qualified to be president except Tulsi Gabbard.” After telling CNN that he thought centrist Democrat Joe Biden was “a good guy,” he bad-mouthed Gabbard, saying, “I don’t think she knows what she’s doing and she’s not qualified.”

The Democratic Party establishment has feared Gabbard’s growing influence and attacked her relentlessly ever since she refused to toe the oligarch party line and backed Bernie over Hillary in 2016.

Liberal sites like The Intercept and Honolulu’s Civil Beat have all joined in the assault, while Rolling Stone quickly published a critique by a pro-Hillary, former Newsweek journalist proclaiming – “Tulsi Gabbard’s Campaign May Be Over Before It started.” A sub head claimed, “The congresswoman from Hawaii’s past is filled with anti-LGBTQ activism, calls for bombing Syria and endorsing torture.”

Critical comments on the RS article highlighted the obvious bias – “The irony of course is how pro Hillary this reporter has been in the past. Complete Hillbot idolization,” noted one. “And yet, this ridiculous pay for play reporter is digging up dirt and slamming Tulsi on an issue that has been addressed over and over.”

Another comment simply called out RS – “Nice smearing.”

The liberal news site Vox waded in asserting “How Gabbard went from rising star to pariah.” Littered with falsehoods their article suggested: “It’s a collapse that speaks to the broader arc of Gabbard’s career so far, a story of squandered potential that feels like a Greek tragedy.”

Vanity Fair jumped in on the attack with an article sub-head – “The Democratic candidate’s perplexing, Bannonesque foreign policy and passivity toward Assad may make her radioactive. And then there is the homophobia.” It includes the usual distortions and innuendo.

Many of these articles spout similar false talking points, that she’s a bigoted homophobic, Islamophobic, torture supporter, who loves authoritarian leaders – never mind the actual truth.

Even though Gabbard recently apologized for her anti-gay stance which she took during her twenties and has supported same-sex marriage since 2012 and was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT lobby, the web has been alight with anti-Gabbard homophobia postings.

Gabbard’s congressional record of voting for LGBT bills in congress is the identical “100% support” as every other Democrat who is exploring a 2020 presidential bid.

On January 17 Tulsi released a video explaining how she had been basically raised in a fundamentalist family and over time came to realize her doctrinaire beliefs were wrong. “In my past I said and believed things that were wrong and they hurt people,” she said. “I regret the role I played in causing pain. I grew up in a socially conservative household and was raised to believe marriage should only be between a man and a woman. My father fought against gay rights in Hawaii and I defended him. My views have changed significantly since then. I will continue to fight for LGBTQ rights.”

Addressing that faulty Islamophobic perception a Facebook poster commented – “I am proud to be an American Muslim for Tulsi Gabbard and I will continue to emphasize that she is NOT Islamophobic.”

The current smear campaign is described in a Medium article headlined – “Tulsi is a Rising Star Despite Lies From Biased Media.”

The article alleges that eBay billionaire publisher Pierre Omidyar, “continues his smear campaign against Tulsi Gabbard through his personally funded media projects The Intercept and Honolulu Civil Beat, as well as having his reporters submit articles to left-leaning media outlets.”

Omidyar has donated more than $30 million to the Clinton Global Initiative and was a major funder of Hillary’s presidential campaign.

It continued: “Periodicals that are financially supported by Pierre Omidyar have published multiple articles blatantly smearing Tulsi through bigoted attacks and deliberate misrepresentations of her positions and policies.”

Many readers shocked at The Intercept’s obvious bias posted comments like, “Sloppy, misleading hit-piece,” and “Another lazy reporter making controversial comments without backing their accusations up with facts,” and, “This article is terrible, Hinduphobic and racist.”

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald explained on TV this week why she is being vilified. “Democrats hate her,” he said. “Washington hates people who are kind of independent minded and critical thinkers.”

The establishment echo chambers attempt to paint her as a right winger has expanded despite virtually every position and vote Gabbard has made as Hawai’i’s highly popular Congresswoman (she won re-election with 77% of the vote last year).  Gabbard, a combat vet from Iraq, has nonetheless been a vocal critic of that calamitous war. She supports abortion rights, Wall Street reform, decriminalization of marijuana, and Medicare for All. She has refused PAC money and has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as the Trump arms deal with the Saudis.

She has taken heat for criticizing President Obama because he refused to refer to radical Islamic terrorists, and for praising Egypt’s el Sisi (it was for his commitment to take on ISIS), even though she also met with leaders of the Christian Coptic Church on the same Egypt trip.

She’s been hammered over Syria and for meeting with Assad, and speaking out against American-imposed regime change in that nation. She’s called Assad a “brutal dictator.”

She was also criticized for questioning who was responsible for a chemical gas attack, noting that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on faulty intelligence, and that the war was a huge mistake.

Among the experts who also expressed skepticism that the Syrian government was responsible were former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, MIT professor Theodore Postol (a former Pentagon missile expert), investigative Israeli journalist Uri Avneri, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.

An outspoken critic of regime change (she tweeted today about Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton’s desire to invade Iran – “John Bolton’s long standing desire for regime change in Iran must be called out and shut down”), in addressing the Russian disinformation campaign on American elections, she offered an intelligent, nuanced perspective.

“The United States has been doing this for a very long time in countries around the world, both overtly and covertly, through these kinds of disinformation campaigns,” said Gabbard. “Not even counting like the regime change wars, like we’re going to take you out.”

“I think it is very hypocritical for us to be discussing this issue as a country without actually being honest about how this goes both ways. So, yes, we need to stop these other foreign countries—and Russia’s not the only one; there are others—from trying to influence the American people and our elections. We also need to stop doing the same thing in other countries.”

Her Hindu religious affiliation has prompted a disturbing Hinduphobic bias that she is Islamophobic. A myopic New York Magazine article in November by a well-known anti-Gabbard critic was replete with falsehoods, half-truths, and baseless rumors.

An earlier article in Paste Magazine, by the same author, Eon Higgins, ludicrously claimed: “But a deeper look at Gabbard’s political career shows that she is devoted to attaining power and to the perpetuation of extremist, fringe ideology. She adopts and sheds extremist positions at will, but one thing remains constant: her consistent embrace of hard-right politics.”

That Hindu affiliation has led to consequent criticism of Gabbard’s ties with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (like in the VF article), the elected head of the largest democracy in the world.

No mention though that Obama was friendly with Modi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with him (she thanked him for India continuing to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama ), as did Bill and Hillary (she praised Modi’s environmental commitment, “the world is counting on India’s leadership on climate change.”), but that doesn’t fit the smear Gabbard campaign.

The Vanity Fair article neglected to cite a 2015 Time magazine profile where President Obama enthusiastically praised Modi – “He’s laid out an ambitious vision to reduce extreme poverty, improve education, empower women and girls and unleash India’s true economic potential while confronting climate change.”

The lies in the media also include a widely spread assertion that she met with then president-elect Trump to discuss a possible position in the Trump administration. The truth – Trump asked the Iraq War veteran to meet with him to share her views on Syria.

No fan of President Trump, she recently called him out in a tweet as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch,” for announcing the U.S.’s continuing support of Saudi Arabia, and has condemned his rollback of environmental regulations which has put “the health and safety of Americans at risk.”

As for being pro-torture. She reported, “let’s say, in an hour, a nuclear bomb or an attack will go off unless this information was found, I believe if I were the president of the United States that I would do everything in my power to keep the American people safe.”

The problem, torture doesn’t work. Former FBI agent and interrogator Ali Soufan, says the  use of torture has not prevented, “one single terrorist attack” in the U.S. Soufan found that coercive techniques make detainees tell you what you want to hear, whether it is true or not.

A Veterans Today post just summed up why she has been the brunt of Democrat establishment hostility since announcing her candidacy. “Tulsi Gabbard, who has over the years given the Neocons and war machine heart attacks, is running for president in 2020. Obviously this is not a comfortable position for the Deep State and the Neocons, the people who have spent trillions upon trillions of tax dollars in the Middle East destroying lives and livelihood. So far she is the best presidential candidate for 2020.”

If beating Trump in 2020 is the primary concern of many voters, they might do well to disregard the mainstream pundits and take a second look at Gabbard’s electability. Because the very thing that scares the hell out of the Democratic establishment is the exact quality that the all important “swing” voters (who gravitate toward perceived outsiders) will like the most about Tulsi Gabbard’s: her courageous independence.

Who knows whether her campaign will survive the negative media onslaught? As one writer noted, “The more we lift her up, the harder the propaganda machine will have to work to push her back down.”

We’ll close with this recent Tulsi quote which reflects the influence of Hawaiian culture – “Aloha means having deep, heartfelt respect and love for each other and our country. When we love, we care, when we care, we take action. Living aloha means putting service before self.”

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Jon Woodhouse

Jon Woodhouse is the Managing Editor of The Maui Independent. Moving to Maui 42 years ago, he feels blessed to live here. He writes about music for The Maui News and worked for the Hawaii Department of Education up until late 2019.

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