Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard unexpectedly entered the race for a senior position in Trump administration when she met the president-elect on Monday, sparking speculation she was being considered as US ambassador to the UN.
It’s a cabinet-rank position considered as a stepping stone towards even more high-profile portfolios. Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s first UN ambassador, was in contention for secretary of state before she was named National Security Adviser.
“The two leaders had a detailed conversation regarding the situation in the Middle East including the crisis in Syria and America's position in the world,” the Trump transition team said in a statement about their meeting.
If that could be construed as a hint of a global affairs position being considered for Gabbard, the second part of the statement pointed to a domestic role — “They also discussed approaches to fix the VA (veteran affairs) and other veterans issues”.
Gabbard, who is a two-term US representative from Hawaii, is a member of the Army National Guard, a reserve component of the US armed forces, and has served two tours of duty in west Asia. She holds the rank of Major.
Gabbard, who is a Hindu and took oath of office on a copy of Bhagwad Gita, is widely considered to be “one of our own” by the Indian American community. Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent her personal greetings and gifts on her marriage in 2015.
Knowing her meeting with Trump would not go down well with her party, Gabbard said in a statement, “It would have been easier for me to refuse this meeting … But I never have and never will play politics with American and Syrian lives.”
She said she felt it “was important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect to counteract neocons’ steady drumbeats of war, which threaten to drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government”.
But Gabbard is unlikely to be affected by rumblings in the Democratic party, if any. She had stepped down as vice-chair of the party’s national committee to support Bernie Sanders, an independent who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic ticket.