Two obscure Dems enter presidential race

Technically, Elizabeth Warren is “exploring” whether to run for president. For all intents and purposes, she’s running.

Now, she’s been joined by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro. Gabbard announced her candidacy yesterday; Castro entered the race today.

Gabbard is a bit unorthodox for a Democrat. Her American Conservative Union ratings usually flirt with double digits, which is unusual for a congressional Dem. Her Hawaii colleagues Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz struggle to exceed zero. Conservative Review once gave Gabbard a rating of 20 percent, the same number it gave Lisa Murkowski.

To her credit, Gabbard has called out fellow Democrats, including her Hawaii colleague Sen. Hirono (though not by name), for religious bigotry, citing attacks on judicial nominee Brian Buescher over his involvement with the Knights of Columbus. She also appeared at events sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute to criticize the Obama administration’s foreign policy in ways that “raised some Democratic eyebrows,” as the Washington Post puts it.

She even had the audacity to meet with Donald Trump during the transition period.

But Gabbard is probably best known for her relationship with Bashar al Assad. In 2017, accompanied by Dennis Kucinich, she met with Assad in Syria without authorization from the State Department. After the meeting, Gabbard reportedly dismissed all of Assad’s opposition as terrorists. She also said that everywhere she went, on a tour guided by the regime, Syrians supported Assad.

Meeting with Assad without authorization from the State Department isn’t unprecedented among congressional Democrats. Nancy Pelosi did the same thing during the Bush administration, after which she declared that Assad holds the key to peace in the Middle East.

But even Pelosi has had the decency not to repeat this stunt after Assad began systematically butchering his own people during the Syrian civil war.

Gabbard’s willingness to play the stooge for Assad should disqualify her from serious consideration for the presidency. But it will be her deviation from Democratic orthodoxy on other issues that disqualifies her in the minds of Democratic voters.

Julian Castro doesn’t have to worry about being perceived by the left as unorthodox. He’s a standard issue left-wing Democrat.

As HUD Secretary, he duly implemented one of the left’s pet projects — Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH). This program is perhaps the left’s most aggressive assault on American liberty, constituting, as it does, an attempt by the federal government to seize control over local zoning for the purpose of moving people from area to area based on their race.

What really differentiates Castro from the rest of the prospective field, though, is his ethnicity. He’s Latino. These days, that’s a big deal.

Conceivably, it may prove a big enough deal to move Castro to the “adult table” during Democratic presidential debates. But I don’t see it carrying him to the nomination.

I doubt Castro sees it doing so, either. More likely, he intends to use his presidential campaign to improve his visibility in the hope of being nominated for vice president. Reportedly, he was considered for that role by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Castro has good reason to believe he’ll be considered even more seriously this time around.

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