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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Tulsi Gabbard vexes leaders in her party just as Ron Paul did in GOP

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) Credit: AP/John Minchillo

While the comparison falls short of perfect, the 2020 candidacy of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) bears a certain resemblance to the rebellious 2008 and 2012 races run by former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Both are perhaps best known for attacking the foreign policies of their respective parties' establishments.

By sniping at Gabbard from the sidelines, former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton created a sudden bout of attention for the ex-soldier's long shot candidacy.

In a podcast, Clinton clearly referred to her without naming her as a “favorite of Russians” and suggested Republicans “are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.”

Gabbard tweeted back at Clinton: "You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain."

Gabbard has referred to U.S. involvement in Syria during the most recent Democratic presidency as a "regime change war" that she opposed. 

To her right, Paul played the rebel too. He made his first big media splash in the 2008 cycle, and ran again four years later, both times drawing marginal numbers of votes despite an enthusiastic core of fans.

Six years earlier, he'd voted against the Iraq War resolution and later proposed abolishing the Homeland Security Department and diminishing the Federal Reserve.

He talked about the 9/11 attacks resulting from "blowback" from U.S. Mideast policies, prompting furious reactions from many rival Republicans. Paul made President George W. Bush's administration the target of his anti-war barbs.

Both Gabbard and Paul brought unorthodox backgrounds to their roles as party rebels. 

An obstetrician-gynecologist by trade, Paul described himself as "an unshakable foe of abortion."

An Iraq War veteran, Gabbard, who served as an Army medical specialist, is an anti-interventionist.

Both made enemies of insiders who denigrated them as "assets" for rival overseas interests.

Paul has denounced the federal "war on drugs" as sapping freedom.

Gabbard went after rival Sen. Kamala Harris in a debate over marijuana incarcerations while she was California's attorney general.

Both Paul and Gabbard have been dissident "message" candidates stirring up crowded party debate stages. And based on Gabbard's numbers thus far, neither surged enough in the polls to threaten a front-runner.

Both follow outside-the-box media strategies. Much as Gabbard routinely appears on the GOP-oriented Fox News, Paul has spoken over the years on the Democratic-oriented MSNBC.

Back in May, Paul himself has called Gabbard "by far the best" Democratic candidate, but that he disagreed with her "liberal" economic policies. Both have drawn odd and controversial declarations of support from fringe groups and players.

Gabbard's unusual one-on-one clash with Clinton had a prologue. In February 2016, Gabbard resigned as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and endorsed Clinton's main primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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