MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' crew grilled 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Wednesday morning about her opposition to the U.S. military presence in Syria and her assertion that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is "not an enemy of the United States."
Gabbard, who denounced "regime change wars" in her campaign opening speech last week, said she met with Assad because leaders must "be willing to meet with adversaries or potential adversaries, not only our friends."
NBC's Kasie Hunt asked: "Do you think Assad is our enemy?"
Gabbard responded: "Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States."
Hunt followed up: "What do you say to Democratic voters who watched you go over there, and what do you say to military members who have been deployed repeatedly in Syria pushing back against Assad?"
"People who have been deployed to Syria have been there focused on their mission, which has been to defeat ISIS. Our troops have not gone to Syria to wage yet another costly destructive regime change war," Gabbard said. "And many troops I hear from express frustration at the fact that our country continues to wage senseless, costly regime change wars followed by nation-building missions, leading to situations like we see in Afghanistan. So many examples of our troops being deployed, their lives put on the line without understanding what the clear mission or objective is and how that mission actually serves the security of the people of the United States."
Pressed repeatedly, Gabbard declined to say whether Assad is a U.S. adversary or an enemy, Gabbard said: "you can describe it however you want to describe it."
"My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours," Gabbard explained.
Asked whether she thinks Assad is a "good person," Gabbard laughed and said: "No, I don’t."