Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announces 2020 presidential bid

Hawaiian congresswoman who met with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad announces 2020 presidential bid.

Marcy Oster, JTA ,

Tulsi Gabbard at 2016 Democratic National Convention
Tulsi Gabbard at 2016 Democratic National Convention

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who has met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and embraced nationalist leaders, announced she will run for president in 2020.

Gabbard made her announcement Friday during the taping of an interview that ran on CNN on Saturday. She said she will make a formal announcement in the coming week. Also on Saturday, Julian Castro, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant who served as housing secretary in President Barack Obama’s second term, announced that he would throw his hat in the ring.

Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress and an Iraq war veteran. She was a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid in 2016. Sanders has not yet announced whether or not he will run again in 2020.

Gabbard, considered a political progressive, also has embraced American supporters of nationalist Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She made a secret visit to Syria in January 2017, saying it is important to meet with adversaries if “you are serious about pursuing peace.”

In 2015, she spoke at a conference of Christians United for Israel, which has defended Israel’s settlement enterprise and has backed legislation that slashes funding to the Palestinians. In January 2017, she published a statement in support of the two-state solution. And in May 2018, she publicly slammed Israel for its use of live ammunition against “unarmed protesters” on the Gaza border as part of the so-called March of Return.

Castro served as mayor of San Diego for five years. In 2011 he led a delegation of businessmen and clergy to Israel, where he signed a friendship-city agreement with Tel Aviv.