Who’s Afraid Of Tulsi Gabbard?

By Matt Taibbi and cross posted from Rolling Stone

“It just shows,” says Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, “that launching a smear campaign is the only response to the truth.”

Gabbard, 38, burst into headlines after a July 31 Democratic Party presidential debate, when she went after California Senator Kamala Harris’s record as Attorney General of the State of California.The “smear campaign” refers to the bizarre avalanche of negative press that ensued, as reporters seemed to circle wagons around a Harris, a party favorite.

The Gabbard-Harris exchange was brief but revealing, as a window into a schism in the Democratic Party. Harris was elected Attorney General of California in 2010. She frequently sought moderate or even conservative positions on issues like criminal sentencing, drug enforcement, and prison labor. These stances were standard among Democrats back when being “tough on crime” was considered an essential component of the “electability” argument.

The Democratic electorate has changed, becoming especially concerned about mass incarceration. However, the party has not quite caught up. Gabbard exposed these divisions in the July 31 event, when she said:

“She put over 1500 people in jail for marijuana, and then laughed about it when asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”

The Detroit crowd cheered all the way through Gabbard’s next point, about Harris’ blocking the introduction of DNA evidence in a murder case. The applause unnerved Harris, who looked like someone dented her car. She’d been at 20 points in a July 2 Quinnipiac poll; after a multi-week slide that culminated with Gabbard’s attack, Harris was at 7 percent, a “distant fourth” behind Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders.

Having wounded a presumptive frontrunner backed by nearly $25 million in campaign funds, Gabbard instantly became the subject of a slew of negative leaks, tweets, and press reports. Many of these continued the appalling recent Democratic Party tradition of denouncing anything it doesn’t like as treasonous aid to foreign enemies

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