My appreciation for Tulsi Gabbard has mostly been played off as a joke. But it’s real enough. Gabbard has occasionally relied on some dodgy materials while making her case against the American intelligence community, but I like that she has an independent streak and a genuinely different, undeniably American background. She served in the military after 9/11 and still serves as a reserve officer. She is consistently skeptical of what she calls regime-change wars. I’m happy that she pointed out the gap between Donald Trump’s America First rhetoric about bringing the troops home and the fact that he simply moved them from Syria to Saudi Arabia. Gabbard has tried, unsuccessfully, to moderate her party’s more paranoiac secularism, the type that sees a judge’s membership in the Knights of Columbus as a threat.
In fact, that last point is one of the most salient. Gabbard has been to a theater of war, and perhaps she has a more intuitive sense of the difference between real danger and cynical paranoia. Where others imagine Vatican plots when evaluating recent judicial nominee Brian Buescher, she sees an American Catholic with whom she has political differences. (Political differences are not quite yet criminalized in this country.) Where others concoct collusion with Russia, she sees genuine American dissent from Washington orthodoxy.
Perhaps war-skeptical conservatives are to Gabbard what Warren Harding was to Eugene V. Debs.