Rep. Tulsi Gabbard told Mayor Pete Buttigieg despite both having served in the armed forces he lacks the courage to meet with international adversaries. Buttigieg used his response to denounce Gabbard for having the judgment to meet with "murderous dictator" Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Gabbard shot back, telling Buttigieg, "you would lack the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends to ensure the peace."
"Your point about judgment is absolutely correct," Gabbard said. "Our commander-in-chief does need to have good judgment. And what you've just pointed out is that you would lack the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends to ensure the peace and national security of our nation. I take the example of those leaders who have come before us, leaders like JFK, who met with Khrushchev, like Roosevelt, who met with Stalin."
From Wednesday's Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC:
RACHEL MADDOW, MODERATOR: Mayor Buttigieg, I'll let you respond to that.
MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG: So, first of all, Washington experience is not the only experience that matters. There's more than 100 years of Washington experience on this stage, and where are we right now as a country?
I have the experience of bringing people together to get something done. I have the experience of being commanded into a war zone by an American president. I have the experience of knowing what is at stake as the decisions made in those big white buildings come into our lives, our homes, our families, our workplaces, and our marriages. And I would submit that this is the kind of experience we need, not just to go to Washington, but to change it before it is too late.
MADDOW: Mr. Mayor, thank you. Congresswoman Gabbard, on the original question of voting rights, please.
REP. TULSI GABBARD (D-HI): Thank you. I mean, voting rights are essential for our democracy. Securing our elections is essential for our democracy. I've introduced legislation called the Securing Americas Elections Act that mandates paper ballots to make sure that every single voter's voice is heard.
But I want to get back to Pete Buttigieg and his comments about experience. Pete, you'll agree that the service that we both have provided to our country as veterans by itself does not qualify us to serve as commander-in-chief. I think the most recent example of your inexperience in national security and foreign policy came from your recent careless statement about how you as president would be willing to send our troops to Mexico to fight the cartels.
As commander-in-chief, leader of our armed forces, I bring extensive experience, serving for seven years in Congress, on the Foreign Affairs Committee, on the Armed Services Committee, on the Homeland Security Committee, meeting with leaders of countries around the world, working with military commanders of different commands...
MADDOW: Congresswoman, thank you.
GABBARD: ... dealing with high-level national security briefings, understanding what's necessary, the preparation that I've gotten to walk in on day one to serve as commander-in-chief.
MADDOW: Congresswoman, thank you. Mr. Mayor, I'll allow you to respond.
BUTTIGIEG: So I've got to respond to that. I know that 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.
GABBARD: Are you saying that you didn't say that?
BUTTIGIEG: I was talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation. We've been doing security cooperation with Mexico for years, with law enforcement cooperation and a military relationship that could continue to be developed with training relationships, for example. Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?
GABBARD: That's not what I said. That's not what I said.
BUTTIGIEG: I'm talking about building up -- I'm talking about building up alliances. And if your question is about experience, let's also talk about judgment. One of the foreign leaders you mentioned meeting was Bashar al-Assad. I have in my experience, such as it is, whether you think it counts or not since it wasn't accumulated in Washington, enough judgment that I would not have sat down with a murderous dictator like that.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Gabbard, let me allow you to respond.
GABBARD: Thank you. You were asked directly whether you would send our troops to Mexico to fight cartels and your answer was yes. The fact-checkers can check this out.
GABBARD: But your point about judgment is absolutely correct. Our commander-in-chief does need to have good judgment. And what you've just pointed out is that you would lack the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends to ensure the peace and national security of our nation. I take the example of those leaders who have come before us, leaders like JFK, who met with Khrushchev, like Roosevelt, who met with Stalin.
BUTTIGIEG: Like Donald Trump who met with Kim.
GABBARD: Like Reagan, who met -- like Reagan, who met and worked with Gorbachev. These issues of national security are incredibly important. I will meet with and do what is necessary to make sure that no more of our brothers and sisters in uniform are needlessly sent into harm's way fighting regime change wars that undermine our national security. I'll bring real leadership and experience to the White House.
MADDOW: Congresswoman Gabbard...
BUTTIGIEG: I've got to respond to this. This is a direct...
MADDOW: Senator Sanders, I'm going to have you respond.
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