Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard took a shot at South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s lack of experience on foreign policy during the last hour of Wednesday’s Democratic debate.
Gabbard said his inexperience was evident in his remark that he would support sending American troops into Mexico to fight the drug cartels. Buttigieg challenged her accusation.
“I know it’s par for the course in Washington to take remarks out of context, but that is outlandish even by the standards of today’s politics,” he said.
“Are you saying that you didn’t say that?” she shot back.
“I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation,” Buttigieg said. “Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?”
Sean Savett, a member of the Buttigieg campaign’s communications team, tweeted out a partial transcript of the statement to which Gabbard referred.
Buttigieg, asked about how he would deal with cartels at the southern border, said that in the context of a partnership with security cooperation, he would send troops to the border, according to the transcript.
On the debate stage, Buttigieg then went on the counterattack, citing Gabbard’s lack of judgment in deciding to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad. “I would not have sat down with a murderous dictator like that,” he said.
Gabbard defended her oft-criticized visit by citing the examples of previous presidents meeting with leaders of the Soviet Union: Ronald Reagan meeting with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, John F. Kennedy meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, and Franklin D. Roosevelt meeting with Josef Stalin.
All of those summits come with asterisks, however: The United States and the Soviet Union were allies against Nazi Germany when Stalin and Roosevelt met during World War II. Kennedy’s meeting with Khrushchev in 1961 has long been regarded as a diplomatic disaster that was soon followed by the Cuban missile crisis. And Gorbachev was a reformer who ushered in an era of political openness in the Soviet Union.