U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, made her second stop in Fairfield Wednesday morning.
Gabbard spoke at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center in early February, and this time around she was in the cozy confines of Revelations Café, where she was met by a standing-room-only crowd.
The Hawaiian congresswoman touched on many of the same themes Wednesday she did in her earlier talk in Fairfield: her opposition to what she calls “regime-change wars,” closing private prisons, allowing for the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada, getting big money out of politics and ending the War on Drugs.
Gabbard spent a significant share of her speech talking about the wars the U.S. has fought lately, its effects on people in foreign countries, its effects on soldiers, and its financial consequences.
“Regime-change wars are counterproductive on every level, and counter to the interests of the people in these countries,” she said. “Al Qaeda is bigger now than it ever was before.”
Gabbard said politicians in Washington who voted to spend trillions on a war “tell us there isn’t enough money for healthcare for all, not enough for affordable housing, not enough to ensure everyone has clean water to drink.”
The congresswoman said some in Washington are stirring to start new wars by forcing regime change in Iran and Venezuela, which she opposes. Gabbard also criticized President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia, and for reneging on the nuclear deal the Obama Administration signed with Iran in 2015.
“This undermines our ability to denuclearize North Korea, which sees that the U.S. does not keep its agreements,” she said.
Gabbard criticized Trump for vetoing a bill just the day before that would have ended U.S. support for a Saudi Arabian-led war in Yemen.
Questions from audience
Fairfield resident Cheyanne Holliday represents an organization called PEACE, which stands for Promoting Equality Acceptance and Compassion Everywhere. She said it’s an animal rights organization that seeks to educate the public about animal agriculture and help owners of confined animal feeding operations transform their business into a vegan operation, meaning one that does not use animal products.
“It’s not that difficult a process, actually,” Holliday said. “Some farmers are already doing it.”
One of her group’s projects is to start an all-vegan restaurant in Fairfield, offering nutritional literacy to help people transition to a plant-based diet. Another project is purchasing a CAFO and transforming it into an animal sanctuary.
Holliday talked about these projects with Gabbard, and asked the congresswoman if she supported them. Gabbard seemed sympathetic to what Holliday was saying, and argued that the solution to CAFOs was not to ban them but to transform them to accommodate the workers who rely on them for stable jobs.
“I was very moved by her and her presence,” Holliday said. “When she came in, I felt this wave of love and compassion, and started tearing up.”
Holliday said Gabbard is one of her top two candidates, the other being Marianne Williamson.
Fairfield resident Guy Harvey thanked Gabbard for speaking out against the U.S. government’s indictment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The U.S. has accused Assange of conspiring to steal secret government files, alleging that he worked with Chelsea Manning to obtain and publish classified documents. The documents pertain to the U.S. war in Iraq, and include a video of an Apache helicopter killing 12 people. The U.S. military investigated the incident and determined the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with its rules of engagement.
Harvey asked Gabbard what she would do as president to protect whistleblowers.
“It’s critical that we all defend freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and how dangerous it is to live in an environment where there can be such a culture of fear created that you must follow the line or be punished,” she said. “Let’s step back and look at what happened under the Obama Administration and why they chose not to pursue extradition against Assange. They were rightly concerned about how that would impact the freedom of the press, and how that would impact whistleblowers who find ways to publish the information about abuse of power and government overreach.”
Harvey said afterward that he was pleased with the answer Gabbard gave him.
“To my knowledge, she’s the only presidential candidate that has made a statement on Assange and how it relates to press freedoms,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands or even a million people have died in the Iraq War, and it’s generally agreed upon that we were misled about weapons of mass destruction. The war caused great suffering in Iraq, and for American soldiers and troops, and no one in the American establishment responsible for it has been held accountable.”
Harvey said Assange and Manning exposed what he considers “war crimes” during the war, and said it was ironic how they were the ones being prosecuted for their actions.
Fairfield resident Mary Tarnoff asked Gabbard how she would work to address climate change, particularly with people who don’t believe it’s a serious problem.
“The word ‘climate change’ has become a hot button word,” Gabbard said. “Even mentioning it, people will either open their ears or close them because it’s become so politicized. That’s unfortunate because the impacts of climate change don’t discriminate based on party line.”
Gabbard said both Democrats and Republicans want to avoid massive natural disasters, and ensure clean air and water.
“I would challenge you to find a Republican who doesn’t want those things,” she said.
Audience member Carol Olicker chimed in by saying, “you’re in Iowa,” prompting a chuckle from the crowd.
“Do you know what they say when it smells really bad because of the hog manure? They say, ‘That’s the smell of money,’” Olicker said.
Gabbard responded by saying that one of the obstacles that stands in the way of a solution to environmental problems is that people on both sides prejudge each other.
“They’re not actually interested in a conversation or in listening to where someone may be coming from,” she said. “This is where it’s so important for us to start those conversations even with those who are ‘on the other side.’”