SHE WAS BORN IN AMER­I­CAN SAMOA. HER MOTHER IS FROM IN­DI­ANA. SHE IS ALSO A HINDU The Iraq war vet­eran has faced crit­i­cism for se­cret meet­ing with Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad and sup­port­ing ad­di­tional re­stric­tions on refugees en­ter­ing the United States

Fiji Sun - - In-depth -

The con­gress­woman of Hawaii has an­nounced she will run for pres­i­dent in 2020 in what is likely to be a crowded Demo­cratic field.

Tulsi Gab­bard, an Iraq War vet­eran who made his­tory in 2012 as the first Hindu elected to the US Con­gress, has been con­sid­ered a “ris­ing star” within the Demo­cratic Party.

The 37-year-old con­gress­woman was born in Amer­i­can Samoa, but her fam­ily moved to Hawaii aged two. She is the first mem­ber of con­gress to be born in the US ter­ri­tory cov­er­ing seven South Pa­cific is­lands.

At the age of 21 Ms Gab­bard be­came the youngest per­son elected to the Hawai­ian State Leg­is­la­ture, a decade be­fore she was elected to Con­gress to rep­re­sent Hawaii’s sec­ond con­gres­sional dis­trict.

The con­gress­woman has also served in a med­i­cal unit of the Hawaii Na­tional Guard and was de­ployed twice to the Mid­dle East.

Ms Gab­bard was one of the most prom­i­nent politi­cians to back Bernie Sanders over Hil­lary Clin­ton in the 2016 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. She re­signed as vice chair­woman of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee to ex­press her sup­port.

The con­gress­woman’s sup­port for Mr Sanders paid div­i­dends two years later when her re-elec­tion bid was en­dorsed by Our Rev­o­lu­tion, a grass­roots po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion launched by sup­port­ers of Sanders’ cam­paign. Asked last year whether she would still con­sider run­ning if Mr Sanders ran, Ms Gab­bard said Mr Sanders is a friend and she did not know what his plans were.

“I’m think­ing through how I can best be of ser­vice and I’ll make my de­ci­sion based on that,” she said.

In 2016, Ms Gab­bard drew crit­i­cism from fel­low Democrats when she met with Don­ald Trump dur­ing his tran­si­tion to pres­i­dent and later when she took a se­cret trip to Syria and met with Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad, who has been ac­cused of war crimes and geno­cide and has presided over a civil war which has killed over half a mil­lion peo­ple.

She ques­tioned whether he was re­spon­si­ble for a chem­i­cal at­tack on civil­ians that killed dozens and led the US to at­tack a Syr­ian air base. Ms Gab­bard said she does not re­gret the trip and con­sid­ers it im­por­tant to meet with ad­ver­saries if “you are se­ri­ous about pur­su­ing peace”.

The con­gress­woman noted that she was “scep­ti­cal” that Mr As­sad’s regime was be­hind the chem­i­cal weapons at­tack that killed dozens of peo­ple in Syria in 2017, align­ing her­self with na­tion­al­ist fig­ures such as Naren­dra Modi of In­dia. Ms Gab­bard has also bro­ken with most Democrats by em­brac­ing the use of the phrase “rad­i­cal Is­lam” and joined Repub­li­cans in crit­i­cis­ing Hi­lary Clin­ton and Barack Obama for not us­ing the phrase. In 2015, the con­gress­woman was among a mi­nor­ity of Democrats who voted for ad­di­tional re­stric­tions on refugees en­ter­ing the US from Syria and Iraq. Ms Gab­bard told CNN in an in­ter­view set to air on Sat­ur­day night that she will for­merly an­nounce her pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy next week. “There are a lot of rea­sons for me to make this de­ci­sion,” she said. “There are a lot of chal­lenges that are fac­ing the Amer­i­can peo­ple that I’m con­cerned about and that I want to help solve.”

United States Con­gress­woman Tulsi Gab­bard.

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