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Thursday
Jul052012

Tulsi Gabbard's Moment of Truth

 

Rumor is that your support of the LGBT community is not genuine. Given your (and your father’s) statements against LGBT rights in the past, why should people believe you've changed?

Tulsi: I've gone through some extraordinary experiences over the last decade, which have led me to realize that I could not, in good conscience, fight for liberty and freedom overseas while advocating something less than that here at home. That was an important decision for me and, in that context, I fully recognize that protecting the equal rights of all Americans, including those in the LGBT community, is an obligation we must strive to fulfill. This personal journey makes sense to most people I talk to. 

This election is real—it's not just philosophical. In less than three months from now, people will be deciding whether I or Mayor Hannemann will have an office in Congress. I have promised that my door will always be open and I will always listen with respect and aloha to people from the LGBT community. So on a practical level what this means is that if you or any other leaders of the LGBT community were to come to Washington DC for a visit, I would do my best ensure that you will always feel comfortable coming to speak about issues of concern to you or just drop by for a friendly chat. You have to ask yourself if you think that would be the case if Mayor Hannemann is in that congressional office. Does anyone in the LGBT community really feel that they would be welcomed by Mayor Hannemann? 

And I've said many times before, I am committed to working for equal rights, will work for the repeal of DOMA, and will support and co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act. Has Mayor Hannemann made such commitments? The answer is no. So in a sense, this election is not about Mayor Hannemann or myself. It's about you. It's about which of us—Mayor Hannemann or myself—would make you feel more respected and comfortable expressing your concerns to. 

You served two tours in Iraq. What was your MOS, and what insights/observations did you bring back from those tours? 

Tulsi: I was Patient Administration (91G) and Medical Logistics (91J) on my first tour of duty to Iraq. For my second tour of duty to Kuwait, I served as a Military Police Platoon Leader, and later a Company Commander. Currently working as a Security Officer in the unit headquarters Operations Section. 

During my tours of duty in the Middle East, I saw firsthand the tragedy that occurs when a government tries to act as the moral arbiter of its people, and does so with the force of law. I saw women forced to cover themselves from head to toe. As a woman, I, too, was ignored and treated like dirt. A Kuwaiti man once refused to shake my hand because he did not want to dirty himself. I saw people punished merely for enjoying "western" music. Iraqis civilians with whom I had become friends confided to me that they feared for their lives because they belonged to the "wrong" religious sect. Personal behavioral choices, such as chastity or sexual identity, that do not conform to government edicts carry the risk of extreme punishment. Though I did not personally witness any stoning or beheading, I was fully aware that these are the usual forms of punishment meted out for the "crimes" of adultery and homosexuality. 

My experience in the Middle East touched the very core of my being, causing me to seriously reflect on my own views of the role of government in our personal lives and decisions. After much soul-searching, I came to realize that many of the staunch positions I once held on social issues were flawed. 

Over time, I came to a fuller understanding of what our Founders were trying to achieve by drafting a constitution that would protect the rights and liberties of all people to live the way they choose without interference from an overarching government. It became clear to me that as an elected official I would have to publicly admit that I had been wrong. Even more difficult, I would have to publicly reject positions held by my parents, whom I respect and love dearly. But I had no choice; it was the right thing to do. 

Once again, let me state unequivocally my belief that government has no business interfering with the choices a woman makes about her reproductive rights; nor should the government have a say in who a person is to love, marry, or spend the rest of their lives with. As a member of Congress, I give my solemn word of honor that:

(1) I will fight any effort to undermine women's reproductive freedom;

(2) I will fight for the repeal of DOMA; and,

(3) I will support the Respect For Marriage Act. 

My life has been a 30-year-long journey that has spanned many continents and the full spectrum of political thought—a journey that has finally come to rest on the shore of personal freedom. Nothing is more important to me than freedom. Freedom is the reason we wear the uniform, and why we fight. Freedom is what makes America great. 

Our freedom is precious and must be protected. Allowing government to dictate these most personal aspects of our lives is diametrically opposed to what makes America great: individual liberty and equal rights for everyone.

Can you name one life-changing experience?

Tulsi: One of my responsibilities in Iraq was to go over the list of troops who had been injured or killed and identify Hawai'i soldiers so that I could make sure they were receiving proper care. With each name from Hawai'i came names of family members or loved ones whose paths I may have crossed, streets or neighborhoods in which I might have played. This experience had a profound effect on me. 

This experience has never left me. And it's one of the main reasons I'm running for Congress. 

It makes me angry that our country, which my brothers and sisters in uniform have sacrificed for, is being destroyed from within by self-serving politicians, big corporations, and Wall Street banks. 

This is why in Congress I will fight to put Congress back in the hands of the people by breaking up the big banks, reining in financial institutions that engage in risky trading, ending subsidies for oil companies and other big corporations, and demanding greater transparency in the dealings between lobbyists, politicians and contributors. 

Let's talk about issues important to military personnel, including LGBT personnel (ending DADT, treating PTSD, unemployment, education, treatment of female service members etc.).

Tulsi: It is time for people to realize that patriots come in all shapes, colors, and sizes—and sexual orientation. Every American has the right to serve their country. I was in favor of ending DADT because I know that LGBT personnel are just as proud of their country as anyone else, and the blood they shed in service to their country is just as valuable. I was therefore honored to be responsible for implementing the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell in my Army Guard unit. 

As for differences between male and female service members—such differences are superficial. The debate over whether women should be assigned combat roles has already become irrelevant because of the very nature of warfare today. Everyone in a war zone is on the front line. You can get killed just as easily riding in a helicopter or in a convoy as on a search and destroy mission. Whether it is in the work place or in a war zone, I believe that everyone—male or female, should be treated equally. In the military, that would mean uniformed personnel are assigned duties based solely on their qualification and level of training, without regard to race, gender or sexual orientation. 

While we're on the subject of the role of women in combat, I should point out that never in our nation's history has a woman combat veteran ever served in Congress. Close to two million women have served in our military, hundreds of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, but the voice of a female combat veteran has yet to be heard on the floor of Congress. As a woman and war veteran, I hope to be that voice in Congress. 

LGBT people have the same concerns as Straight folks when it comes to jobs, the environment, the homeless population and most of all, traffic! What can you do for us in these regards?

Tulsi:

The first order of business is the economy. You know, it wasn’t so long ago that this country had a balanced budget and zero deficit. That tells me that getting our economy back on track is not an impossible dream. We just need to stop the partisan bickering and take some necessary and decisive action.

In Congress, I will work to inject fairness and common sense into our federal budget, by making sure that huge corporations and the ultra-rich do not get special treatment or extra tax breaks, while working class people struggle to make ends meet. I will also fight to eliminate cronyism, and the rampant waste and abuse that is sapping our fiscal strength and eroding the people’s trust in their government. 

Our country is headed for another economic meltdown—but it will be even worse than the last one. This is because the banks that were "too big to fail" in 2008 are even bigger now. The only way to prevent this is serious Wall Street reform.  

I completely agree with former Senator Bryon Dorgon who concludes that in order to save our country's economy we must do three things: 

1. Restore the Glass-Steagall Act

2. Ban naked credit default swaps

3. Get rid of "too big to fail"

In addition, we need to end oil speculation. By the one simple act of ending oil speculation, oil and gas prices will be drastically reduced. This will help our economy on every single level. So long as oil and gas prices are high, our economic recovery will be anemic at best. Oil speculation and high gas prices will continue so long as members of Congress are more concerned about the interests of the giant corporations and Wall Street banks than they are in the interests of our country.

The  measures described above, combined with increased support for small businesses, will solve our unemployment problem. It is outrageous and astonishing to me that while big corporations and Wall Street banks are basically allowed to do whatever they want without much meaningful regulation, small businesses, which are the true engine for growth in our country, are overburdened with bureaucratic red tape. This has to change. But it's not going to change so long as the voice of small businesses are not heard in Congress because they are drowned out by the powerful voices of big business. 

 

I find it impossible to talk about jobs and the economy without talking about ending the war in Afghanistan. We are literally pouring $2.5 billion dollars a week into a corrupt government. This is absolutely mindboggling to me, considering what we could do with all that money here at home to rebuild our economy and create good jobs. This is one of the main reasons I’m offering to serve in Congress. It is absolutely crucial for our economy, for our national defense, and for our troops and their families, that we immediately withdraw from Afghanistan in a safe and orderly fashion.

Our brave men and women in uniform have served this nation honorably and sacrificed tremendously. We have decimated al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we have killed Osama bin Laden, and we have provided the Afghan people and government with the tools they need to succeed. In order for Afghanistan to achieve stability and peace, the Afghan people must stand up and determine the direction of their future. We must take the $2.5 billion a week we are pouring into Afghanistan to prop up a corrupt government and invest those dollars here at home — to rebuild Hawai'is economy and create good jobs.  

 

As a lifelong environmentalist, I will continue to fight to preserve and protect our precious 'aina—not only so that we can enjoy clean air and water ourselves, but for future generations. 

I believe that protecting the environment must go hand-in-hand with building the economy and creating jobs. That is why I am a strong and fervent proponent for developing clean, green, renewable energy resources, for which Hawai'i is already uniquely positioned to become a world leader. In Congress I would strive to create incentives to attract such industries to set up business in Hawai'i. This would have a three-pronged effect of providing jobs, a boost to the economy, and helping to preserve the environment, all at the same time.

Building the economy, creating jobs, and protecting the environment are some of the basic tasks that our representatives in Congress are supposed to be doing. Unfortunately, too many of them have stopped caring about the needs of our working families, and are only looking out for the interests of giant corporations and Wall Street banks which fund their campaigns. 

 

Finally, you asked what I would do about our homeless population. There are many reasons why people are homeless. From my point of view, the most important reason is Hawai'i's high cost of living. People are struggling just to pay for the basic needs of housing, food, and gasoline. Many of us in Hawai'i are not that far from being homeless ourselves. I don’t believe that we should be resigned to the prospect that nothing can be done to drastically lower the cost of living. For one thing, as I've already mentioned, we can reduce the cost of energy. We need to end oil speculation, which will immediately reduce gas prices. This will in turn reduce not only the cost of our transportation, but will reduce the cost of everything else we need, including food, whether imported or grown here, construction, etc.--all which depend on gas and oil.

Secondly, we need to take steps to end land and housing speculation in Hawai'i. The combination of land and housing speculation, along with the shortage of available rentals is a problem. We need to take drastic steps on the federal, state, and city level to rectify this situation, By reducing the cost of housing and food, people won't be forced into homelessness. We need some serious long-term solutions. Until then, I will continue my efforts to help the homeless, by securing federal funding to build more temporary housing, and to provide counseling, education and training, and job placement. As a city councilwoman I worked to get $8.6 million in federal grants to fund 22 homeless assistance programs, but I know that this is not nearly enough. 

These are just a few of the reasons I’m offering to serve in Congress. If the people of Hawai'i give me the honor of serving them in Congress, I will fight for equal rights for those in the LGBT community and all Americans and to put an end to the culture of greed and corruption that pervades Washington.

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