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Tulsi Gabbard vs Hillary Clinton spat worries Democratic Party ahead of 2020 US presidential polls; here's who framed the debate so far

  • Clinton, the former senator, US secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, has set off warning bells in the party with her comments

  • Among those who have come to Gabbard's defence is Sanders, whom the Hawaii congresswoman had endorsed as the Democratic candidate in 2016

  • Possibly the most unlikely defender, in this case, was US president Donald Trump

The debate over Hillary Clinton's comment against Tulsi Gabbard, who is in the running to be the Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 US presidential election, has crossed party lines with US president and Republican leader Donald Trump, another Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and others rising to defend Gabbard.

In an interview on 18 October, Clinton, in an apparent reference to Gabbard, said, "I’m not making any predictions, but I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and they’re grooming her to be the third-party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians."

Clinton, the former senator, US secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, has set off warning bells in the party with her comments. She also slammed Green Party candidate Jill Stein, saying, "[Jill Stein’s] also a Russian asset… Yeah, she’s a Russian asset — I mean, totally. They know they can’t win without a third-party candidate."

However, among those who have come to Gabbard's defence is Sanders, whom the Hawaii Congresswoman had endorsed as the Democratic candidate in 2016.

 Tulsi Gabbard vs Hillary Clinton spat worries Democratic Party ahead of 2020 US presidential polls; heres who framed the debate so far

File image of US lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard. AP

Here is how the debate has been shaped so far:

Tulsi Gabbard

Gabbard fought back unsparingly after Clinton's comments. In a series of tweets on 18 October, Gabbard called Clinton the "personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long." Gabbard also alleged there has been a "concerted campaign" to destroy her reputation since she announced her presidential run in January.

Gabbard also said later on Friday on CBSN that she “will not be leaving the Democratic Party. I will not be running as an independent or a third-party candidate.” She also posted a video on Twitter saying, "Hillary and her gang of rich, powerful elite are going after me to send a message to you: 'Shut up, toe the line, or be destroyed.' But we, the people, will not be silenced. Join me in taking our Democratic Party back and leading a government of, by and for the people!"

AP reported that Clinton’s comment against Gabbard, to act as a spoiler in the 2020 race may have had the opposite effect of what the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee intended: It’s elevated Gabbard’s candidacy and may have inspired even more ardent interest in her campaign among Clinton critics.

On Saturday, Gabbard found fans among the many Clinton skeptics across Iowa, where Clinton barely won the 2016 Democratic caucuses against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Bernie Sanders

Vermont Senator, Sanders, was in the final race to be named as the Democratic candidate for the 2016 presidential election, before he was defeated by Clinton. In defence of Gabbard, Sanders tweeted, "Tulsi Gabbard has put her life on the line to defend this country. People can disagree on issues, but it is outrageous for anyone to suggest that Tulsi is a foreign asset."

Bernie Sanders, who lost the 2016 nomination to Clinton and is running again in 2020, took to Twitter with implicit criticisms of his erstwhile rival. Larry Cohen, one of Sanders’ top supporters, was more conciliatory but warned in an interview that Clinton could harm the eventual 2020 nominee by weighing in against specific candidates, even a longshot like Gabbard.

The former first lady, US senator and secretary of state has “put a lifetime into the Democratic Party. She deserves to be heard,” said Cohen, a prominent member of the Democratic National Committee who also chairs Our Revolution, the spinoff of Sanders’ last presidential campaign. But “in this senior leader role she has,” Cohen said, “it’s her job to embrace the range of politics within the party and not polarize within it.”

Analysts have pointed out that while Russian interest in Gabbard is apparent, Clinton produced no evidence that Moscow is grooming or directly backing the Congresswoman.

Gabbard’s campaign has been promoted by Russian state-owned media and a number of alt-right websites and defended on Twitter by the Russian Embassy. She’s previously faced controversy and criticism from leaders in her party for her unorthodox foreign policy positions, like her decision to meet Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Friday and Saturday, Gabbard refused to disavow the support she’s seen from Russian actors and alt-right sites. But she repeatedly said she will not run as an independent or third-party candidate if she doesn’t win the Democratic nomination.

Donald Trump

Possibly the most unlikely defender, in this case, was US president Donald Trump, who said, "She’s not a Russian agent.”  Speaking during a Cabinet meeting Monday, Trump says Clinton and other Democrats claim everyone opposed to them is a Russian agent. He added: “These people are sick.”

The US president also said that Clinton’s attack boosts Gabbard and his own political chances, claiming it shows concerns about Russian interference are just a “sham.”

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Oct 22, 2019 23:31:56 IST