Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democratic presidential candidate, receives applause as she walks into a meeting room at Laconia Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 2. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

LACONIA — Trillions of dollars spent by the United States on wars of choice would have been better spent helping people at home, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said Wednesday in a presidential campaign appearance at the Laconia Public Library.

“There’s a lot of different issues that need addressing and so many times the answers that we get from politicians is there’s not enough money: there’s not enough money for health care for all; there’s not enough money for making sure our kids are getting the quality education they need; there’s not enough money to make sure we have clean water, infrastructure,” she told a crowd of about 50 people in a meeting room in the library’s basement.

“But very rarely do you hear people bring up this central issue, which is the cost of war.”

Gabbard said she has made that issue the focus of her campaign.

“Since 9/11/2001, we as taxpayers have spent over $6 trillion dollars, not on strengthening our national security, over $6 trillion dollars waging counterproductive wars of choice, going to different countries, overthrowing authoritarian dictators, nation-building in these countries, wars that have made our country less safe by strengthening terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida, wars that have cost us dearly in lives, the lives of my brothers and sisters in uniform who paid the ultimate price and never came home,” Gabbard said.

She said that, if elected, she would bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan.

Gabbard, 38, has qualified for the Oct. 15 Democratic presidential debate near Columbus, Ohio.

She and billionaire businessman and activist Tom Steyer did not qualify in time to make the September debate, but have since reached the qualification threshold of 2 percent poll support and 130,000 unique donors.

In introducing her at the library Wednesday, Democratic state Senate candidate Phil Spagnuolo said she has been a frequent visitor to Laconia this campaign cycle.

New Hampshire Democratic primary polls have found U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden close at the top, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Gabbard is well back at 3 percent support in a Saint Anselm College poll conducted Sept. 25-29.

A New York Times survey shows that Gabbard is one of 224 Democratic representatives who support an impeachment inquiry for President Donald Trump over his request of the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Gabbard didn’t mention Trump in her 16-minute speech at the library.

She did call for unity.

“The most important thing as we look forward is how do we overcome these very deep divides in our country that seemingly every single day are getting worse,” she said.

“We are being torn apart by those in positions of power or influence driving wedges between us based on our politics, our religion, our race, ethnicity, where we come from, our ideas on different things, rather than coming together and uniting around the principles that we share.”

Partisanship is standing in the way of meeting challenges, she said.

“Climate change is one good example unfortunately of how partisan politics and divisiveness is getting in the way of us actually solving real problems. It’s just the two words, climate change, that have become such a hot button. It will elicit one extreme response or another.”

Some people regard it as a hoax or a lie, she said, while others say it is an urgent environmental threat.

“In reality what we are talking about is making sure we have clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, a safe place to live, protecting these beautiful places we call home and ensuring the safety, security that we have a planet that we can leave behind for generations to come that will continue to provide us with food, water and a safe place to live.”

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