2020 Democratic candidates Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who are both military veterans, had a heated back-and-forth during Wednesday’s Democratic debate over Buttigieg’s recent comments on sending troops to Mexico. “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,” Gabbard said. “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.” Buttigieg fired back, calling the accusation “outlandish even by the standards of today's politics,” and adding that his comments had been taken out of context.
“Do you seriously think anybody on this stage is proposing invading Mexico?” I’m talking about building up alliances,” he said to applause from the crowd. Gabbard was referring to Buttigieg’s comments Sunday during a Latino forum in Los Angeles, where he said “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. Buttigieg 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.”