Wednesday, October 30, 2019


Jonathan Chait read the op-ed Tulsi Gabbard just published in The Wall Street Jorunal, and he thinks he's caught her hinting at a third-party presidential run:
Gabbard’s Journal op-ed today is the clearest sign yet of her future course. There is no line in the piece committing Gabbard to running exclusively in the Democratic primary. It doesn’t even mention the primary. It has an ambiguous passage that merits close examination. Read this a few times:
This isn’t a petty “spat” between Mrs. Clinton and me. It’s a serious contrast in views about the choice voters face as they decide which Democratic candidate is best equipped to defeat President Trump. Mrs. Clinton already lost to Mr. Trump once. Why would Democrats think a Hillary 2.0 candidate would result in anything different?
This could be an argument for Democrats to nominate Gabbard. But it’s not exclusively an argument for that purpose. It could just as well be turned into an argument for Gabbard as a second “Democratic” candidate running against Trump, using a familiar Ralph Nader/Jill Stein case that the Democrats are going to fail, so you should vote instead for the superior alternative to the GOP.
I'm no Gabbard fan, but I think that's a strained reading. She's clearly saying that Democrats should pick someone like her as the nominee.

However, Chait is on stronger ground when he cites another passage in the op-ed:
In the following paragraph, Gabbard makes her strategy even more apparent. “Whether Mrs. Clinton’s name is on the ballot or not,” she writes, “her foreign policy will be, as many of the Democratic candidates adhere to her doctrine” of endless regime change, etc. Gabbard is saying right now that any Democratic nominee is going to be Hillary Clinton. What does that tell you about her intentions?
Chait is right to be suspicious of this -- but it makes no sense. Gabbard has just finished telling us that Democratic voters are likely to reject the policies of that horrible warmonger Hillary Clinton. Then, in the very next paragraph, she says a Clinton clone "will be" on the November 2020 ballot on the Democratic line. She doesn't say a Clinton clone "will be" on the ballot if voters reject her own candidacy -- she says an evil neoliberal nominee is inevitable, because "many of the Democratic candidates adhere to her doctrine."

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been rabidly right-wing for decades. I agree with Chait that the publication of this op-ed advances the goals of Donald Trump's Republican Party, by positioning Gabbard as a Democrat-hater peaceniks can vote for.

But this is Schrödinger's ratfuck -- Gabbard is presented as both a potential third-party candidate and not a potential third-party candidate, in consecutive paragraphs.

Hillary Clinton's decision to call Gabbard out has raised Gabbard's profile, and now she's at 4% in the latest USA Today/Suffolk University national poll (up from less than 1% in the previous USA Today/Suffolk poll). In that way, Clinton's attack backfired. But Clinton also warned us all about the GOP interest in Gabbard's candidacy, and about the risk of a third-party run.

So Gabbard is sending multiple messages. Her editor at the Journal should have worked to remove the internal contradiction in the op-ed -- but I guess two contradictory messages were exactly what Gabbard and her editor wanted to send us.

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