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Tulsi Gabbard’s former Democratic colleagues are both perplexed and unsurprised by her far-right pivot: ‘An Elise Stefanik twist’

Tulsi Gabbard speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 25, 2022 in Orlando, FL.Octavio Jones/Reuters

  • Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard left the Democratic Party before campaigning with far-right Republicans.

  • Insiders asked some of Gabbard’s former colleagues what they thought of her political pivot.

  • One said it was “disturbing,” while others shrugged it off and suggested she was what she always was.

As Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont walked through the basement of the Capitol on Tuesday after the midterm elections on his way to the final vote of the night, he quickly recoiled when asked about a former political ally.

“No,” Sanders said when Insider asked if he’d like to speak about former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an early supporter of his 2016 presidential campaign. “Thank you.”

When asked what he thinks happened to Gabbard, who resigned his position on the Democratic National Committee earlier this year to support the independent senator’s upstart campaign, he dramatically threw up his hands as he made his way to the Senate chambers climbed the escalator.

“Don’t know,” he said, adding that the last time he spoke to her was “a long time ago.”

Over the past two years, Gabbard has morphed from a somewhat unconventional Democrat – whose biggest controversy may have been her decision to travel to Syria to meet with dictator Bashar al-Assad – to a Republican who is known in all but name the right to take wing positions on abortion and transgender rights, accusing Democrats of “fomenting anti-white racism.”

“To be honest, I find it troubling,” Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, who served with Gabbard on the House Committee on Armed Services, told Insider at the Capitol.

A spokesman for Gabbard did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

“I guess it was who she was all along”

In October, after running in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and supporting Joe Biden, she announced her departure from the party. She recently joined Fox News and was a guest host on Tucker Carlson’s show.

She continued to campaign in the final months of this year’s midterm elections with some of the GOP’s most extreme candidates, including Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc and GOP House nominee Joe Kent, who attended a rally in support of January 6 rioters.

Moulton noted his own history of criticism of the Democratic Party and his past disagreements with Gabbard over politics, but said her support for extreme Republicans went too far. “To give full support to voter refusers and people who are dangerous to our national security – something that should be important to a veteran like Tulsi – is very difficult to understand.”

“It’s kind of an Elise Stefanik twist,” he continued, referring to the New York GOP congresswoman who, in the span of a few years, went from being a prominent skeptic of former President Donald Trump to one of his staunchest supporters in Congress . “This is bigger than national security, it’s about morality in the United States Constitution and supporting people who don’t support our democratic principles.”

Moulton described his relationship with Gabbard as “friendly and cordial,” but said he hasn’t spoken to her since they last shot. “If I thought I could change her mind, I would reach out to her right now.”

But others expressed a mixture of contempt, resentment and open mockery of the former Democratic congresswoman.

“There’s nothing she’s doing that amazes me,” said Democratic Rep. Kai Kahele of Hawaii, who made a major bid against Gabbard in 2020 before announcing her resignation from Congress. “I think it was who she was all along.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia, another former colleague of Gabbard’s Armed Services Committee. “She has always shown a knack for opportunism for herself.”

“I mean, that’s her personal right,” he said of her apparent change of party. “She has some people listening to her and those Fox viewers will continue to listen to her and life will go on.”

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom Gabbard counted as a friend during her tenure in Congress, disputed the idea that she had changed at all.

“I don’t really see it as a pivot,” Gaetz said. “I see her current work as a sort of continuation of her bulldog stance in Congress.”

“There’s a feature of this place that isolates people as Republicans or Democrats,” he continued. “I think she can maybe be a little bit more herself.”

Gaetz added that he was “more of an admirer than a confidante” and said he hadn’t spoken to Gabbard in a while.

Hawaii’s two Democratic senators — Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz — both declined to speculate about what might be driving Gabbard’s political movement, despite serving with her on the Hawaii delegation.

“I think she’s home,” Hirono said repeatedly when asked what she thinks happened, referring to Gabbard’s political homeland. “Why do I even want to talk about her? No thank you.”

“She’s a private individual and I don’t comment on private individuals,” Schatz said, adding he had “no opinion” of the former congresswoman.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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