Democratic presidential candidates Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegAdvocates see pilot program to address inequalities from highways as crucial first step Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE and Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardThe perfect Democratic running mate for DeSantis? Progressives breathe sigh of relief after Afghan withdrawal Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition MORE tussled Wednesday night over prior experience and judgment after the Hawaii congresswoman said the South Bend, Ind., mayor wanted to use the U.S. military to fight drug cartels in Mexico, which he denied.
“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,” Gabbard said during Wednesday night's 2020 primary debate.
Buttigieg called the accusation “outlandish” and said his comments had been taken out of context. He said he had been talking about U.S.-Mexico cooperation and continuing to develop existing law enforcement and military cooperation between the two countries.
“Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?” he asked to loud applause. “I’m talking about building up alliances.”
Buttigieg on Sunday during a Latino forum in Los Angeles said that “there is a scenario where we could have security cooperation” between U.S. and Mexican troops to combat gang and drug violence across the border.
He added that he’d “only order American troops into conflict if American lives were on the line and if it was necessary to meet treaty obligations,” and his campaign later said that it would be a “last resort” in response to threats on American security.
Buttigieg on Wednesday countered that he has “enough judgment that I would not have sat down with a murderous dictator like” Syrian President Bashar Assad, with whom Gabbard met in 2017.
Gabbard shot back that Buttigieg had made clear that he “would lack the courage to meet with both adversaries and friends to ensure that peace and national security of our nation.”
Earlier in the night, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisPoll: Biden's job approval gains two points Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run MORE (D-Calif.) also called out Gabbard for her meeting with Assad.
Both Buttigieg and Gabbard are veterans and have sparred over national security issues in previous debates.