Seth Wilbur Moulton* was born in Salem, Massachusetts on October 24, 1978, the son of Lynn Alice (née Meader), a secretary, and Wilbur Thomas Moulton, Jr., a real estate attorney. Moulton grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as the oldest of three siblings. He graduated from Phillips Academy in 1997.
Moulton went to Harvard where he was a star running back for the 2000 Harvard Crimson football team. After graduating in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in physics, Moulton joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of 22. According to his website, “It was the minister at his college church at Harvard who inspired Seth to serve. ‘It’s not enough to just support those who serve,’ Rev Peter Gomes said, ‘You have to go out and do something yourself.’ That advice resonated with Seth, and he decided to join the Marines.” He served four tours of duty in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, but later said he did not agree with the war.
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Moulton led one of the first infantry platoons to enter Baghdad. Moulton took part in the 2003 Battle of Nasiriyah, leading a platoon that cleared a hostile stronghold. In that action, he went to the aid of a Marine wounded by friendly fire and, for his actions, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for valor. In the 2004 Battle of Najaf, Moulton “fearlessly exposed himself to enemy fire” for which he received a Bronze Star.
In 2003, Moulton co-hosted a television program with his Iraqi interpreter, Mohammed Harba, called “Moulton and Mohammed,” during which they discussed regional conditions in the period following the U.S. invasion before an audience of U.S. servicemen and Iraqi citizens. The show ended after three months when Moulton’s unit left the area.
Moulton was also prominently featured in the 2007 Academy Award-nominated documentary “No End in Sight.” In the film, Moulton criticized the U.S. government’s handling of the occupation of Iraq.
In 2008, General David Petraeus requested that Moulton be assigned to work as a special liaison with tribal leaders in Southern Iraq during his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. Following that tour, Moulton was discharged from the Marine Corps with the rank of captain.
Following his return from active duty with the Marines in 2008, Moulton attended a dual-degree program at the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School, earning master’s degrees in business and public policy in 2011. After graduate school, Moulton worked for one year as managing director of the Texas Central Railway, a transportation firm that was planning to build the country’s first high speed rail line.
In 2011, Moulton and a graduate school classmate founded Eastern Healthcare Partners, which Moulton has invoked to show he was a “successful entrepreneur” who understands “what it’s like to face that day when you might not meet payroll.” The company raised investor funds and drafted a partnership agreement with Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, but the Boston Globe reported that by the time Moulton ran for Congress in 2014, EHP had no revenue, was still incubating, and had closed its only Massachusetts office.
He entered politics in 2014, running for Massachusetts’s 6th congressional district. He told only his campaign manager, a former Marine, about his military honors, keeping them secret even from his parents. When Boston Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson disclosed in October 2014 that Moulton had earned the Bronze Star and the Commendation Medal, Moulton said that “[t]here is a healthy disrespect among veterans who served on the front lines for people who walk around telling war stories.” He said he was uncomfortable calling attention to his own awards out of respect to “many others who did heroic things and received no awards at all.” He told Robinson: “The greatest honor of my life was to lead these men in my platoon, even though it was a war that I and they disagreed with.”
He won his first election on a platform of bringing a new generation of leadership to Washington, becoming the only Democrat to unseat an incumbent in a primary in 2014. He was reelected in 2016 and 2018.
In 2016, he worked with Serve America to mentor the candidates, raise money for them, and campaign with them in Republican-held districts across the country.
Moulton serves on the Budget Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.
Moulton announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president on April 22, 2019.
He lives in Salem with his wife, Elizabeth, and their daughter, Emmy.
- Asked about comments by Rep. Ilhan Omar, Moulton said, “Well, I’m not a political scientist, but one thing, and it’s very clear to me is that the comments that she made were anti-Semitic and we should have been much stronger as a party in calling her out.”
Re the resolution adopted after Omar’s comments: I think the resolution should have been much more specific. Now, let’s also acknowledge that some of the response to her comments has been hateful, bigoted, and racist against her. But that doesn’t justify what she said. She’s an elected member of Congress. And it’s her moral responsibility not to be going around and saying antisemitic things and she should have been directly rebuked for that…We should have called out anti-Semitism very directly in this resolution and rebuked it rather than do a broad thing about hate in general. (JewishInsider, (May 28, 2019)
- “What went on Congress a few weeks ago with the anti-Semitic comments. That’s not appropriate. We should be better than that. It’s ok for Democrats to stand up and say you can disagree about Israel without using anti-Semitism in what you say.”
When asked whether he supported BDS, he said, No, I don’t. I don’t think we should be pursuing that [BDS] as a country. There is an anti-BDS bill that came before Congress and a lot of Dems very quickly signed on to it and it violated the Constitution, it violated free speech, in fact that was made very clear and I didn’t sign on and I got a lot of heat for it at first and then a lot of Democrats started taking their names off it.” (Video, March 2019)
- Moulton opposed anti-BDS legislation as an unconstitutional infringement of freedom of speech, but later was one of 12 Democrats to sign on to an unsuccessful Republican measure that would have required individuals who boycott Israel to report that information to the IRS and potentially be penalized for it. (Mondoweiss, June 13, 2019)
- “I stand with American policy for the last 20 years. I believe in a two-state solution. I believe that Israel is an ally, but that does not mean I believe in everything that Israel does.”
We can both recognize that Israel is our most important democratic ally in the Middle east and still be perfectly willing to disagree with them when they flaunt international law, when they’re not doing what we think is in our interests or when they’re not handling the Palestinian refugee crisis or conflict or anything else appropriately. That should be the position we take as Americans….You don’t always agree with your allies.
“The conflict with the Palestinians drives so much of the turmoil in the Middle East. It was amazing going to a place like Iraq and hearing how much that influenced what Iraqis were thinking. So we should be doing everything we can to resolve that peacefully. That means standing up for a two-state solution. That means standing up to Netanyahu who very clearly does not believe in a two-state solution despite what he might say. That means recognizing the rule of law.”
“I do not agree with what the president did to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. I do not think it was a wise move for him to in a very provocative way move the capital. I don’t think that helped resolve the crisis, but I am proud to say that Israel is an ally and I know important it is to have allies especially in a place like the Middle East.” (Video, March 2019)
- “Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East and always has been and that’s not going to change. Some people of course think that Trump’s been a good friend to Israel. I don’t equate support for Netanyahu as the litmus test for being a good friend to Israel. I mean certainly what I hear from a lot of people, including many members of the Jewish community here, is that you’ve got to be willing to stand up to Netanyahu. I think that’s part of being an ally, being a friend, is being able to call them out when we disagree with them and they’re not doing things the way we think we should.” (JewishInsider, (May 28, 2019)
- Regarding co-sponsoring the “Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act,” in 2018, Moulton said:
“For decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has endured despite efforts by leaders within the region and throughout the world to find peace. Undeniably, actions taken by both sides throughout this long, complicated history have contributed to making a resolution more difficult to achieve. Despite the challenges, I still believe peace is achievable if parties recommit to negotiations towards a two-state solution that allows both nations to safely live side-by-side.
H.R. 4391 would express a Sense of Congress that any abusive or unnecessarily harsh conditions or treatment of Palestinian children during their detention by the Israeli military is a violation of international law and counter to U.S. and international human rights standards.
H.R. 4391 also prohibits the use of U.S. funds to support any abusive or inhumane detention of children, and requires the Secretary of State to certify to Congress that no funds were obligated for such use. A 2013 UNICEF report showed that Israeli forces arrest, interrogate, and detain approximately 700 Palestinian children a year. While experiences vary, the Israeli military has been documented subjecting children to harsh and sometimes abusive interrogation methods, without an attorney present, that often include forced confessions signed in Hebrew. America should not support these undemocratic practices. That is why I support H.R. 4391, and I believe it will contribute towards a peaceful resolution to this complex conflict and a lasting two-state solution.” (JewishInsider, May 27, 2019)
- “I’ll tell you we were approached by some people, at AIPAC in particular, and they said, this is questionable in this and that way. And I’ve gone down the list and refuted their points and explained why I think that they’re wrong about this. So I’m not afraid to take controversial positions if I think it’s the right thing to do. I do not think that Palestinian kids should be abused. And I think we should make a statement about that. But it also doesn’t, as a practical matter, endanger our aid to Israel.” (JewishInsider, (May 28, 2019)
*Note: When the bill was reintroduced with a different title in 2019, Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, Moulton was no longer listed as a sponsor.
- I am and will continue to support a strong U.S. – Israel relationship and the Israeli military’s efforts to provide security for its people. As part of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), I strongly supported the inclusion of $500 million for Israeli Missile Defense co-development and co-production of the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow weapon systems. Such technologies are critical to Israel’s defense and an important part of our U.S. – Israel bilateral relationship. I have also supported efforts to strengthen research and development on critical counter-tunnel technologies given the threats posed by terrorist groups to Israel and am encouraged by the inclusion of such language in the NDAA.
Despite the many challenges at hand, we must continue to work towards negotiations to reach a two-state solution while firmly condemning the use of violence and upholding human rights.” (JewishInsider, May 27, 2019)
- “I was so outspoken about the need for the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had my statement on front page of White House.gov. I talked to Netanyahu and asked him if you don’t think this is a perfect deal, how do you get a better deal, and he didn’t have an answer.” (Video, March 2019)
- “I’ve talked to Netanyahu. I mean, I’ve met with him…I went to his speech in Congress. But I also went to him, when we were considering the Iran nuclear deal. And I simply asked him, I said, ‘look, I don’t think this deal’s perfect. There’s a lot of ways that I’d like to see it, the stronger, more long lasting, etc. But just explain to me how we get to a better deal. Just lay out the roadmap to get to a better deal.’ And he couldn’t. And that’s when I decided to support the deal because look, this is the chief advocate for getting a better deal and he couldn’t even begin to explain how to get there. So that doesn’t bode very well. And I think that’s why you see people like General Mattis who were very skeptical of the deal at first and really pushing for something stronger, ultimately wanted to keep us in it.”
- On the Iranian regime and re-entering the JCPOA: “I don’t know where we’re going to end up with this. I don’t think it’s responsible to take a position now that could very well change as the circumstances evolve down the road. One of the things you learn spending some time in the national security world is that things change all the time. And so it’s nice to have plans and strategies, but ‘no battle plan survives first contact’ is a widely held military phrase. And I don’t think it’s responsible right now given how dynamic the situation is with Iran to lay out exactly the conditions under which I would get back into the deal. We’ve got to use the maximum leverage that we can. And Iran’s an enemy of the United States. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell the enemy your plans.”
Asked what his strategy is to contain Iran, Moulton explains: “First of all, make sure that they actually adhere to the Iran nuclear deal. And if that means that we need to get back into it under some conditions or whatever, that should be on the table. Second, we need to keep up our sanctions on things like their ballistic missile program, their support for terrorists, their actions in Syria and everything else. If Iran thinks that it has free rein to do whatever it wants in the Gulf, they’re going to do that because they’re a hegemonic power, they’re an expansionist power.”
“One of the mistakes I think that we made under President Obama was not responding more forcefully when the Iranians captured our sailors. Don’t forget they captured them. And that’s a place where I think we kind of backed down too much. Iran has actually responded pretty well to a forceful deterrence from the United States. Obviously they did it for a reason, I’m just saying I think that you’ve got to be careful about being too soft with the Iranians. And I think there are times in the past when we have been.” (JewishInsider, (May 28, 2019)
- “I fought Iranians on the ground in Iraq in 2004. It was bloody. We won. And if necessary, I will fight Iran again. But right now, war is not necessary.” (ABC News, May 19, 2019)
- “I fought Iranians in Najaf,” Moulton said referring to the southern Iraqi city. “We won. I’d fight them again if necessary. But this is not necessary. This is chicken hawks trying to
drag us into a war with Iran just like they did 15 years ago in Iraq. This is why we need to make national security front and center at the Democratic debates.” (USA Today¸ May 16, 2019)
Sources: Congressman Seth Moulton;
Seth Moulton 2020;
“Seth Moulton,” Wikipedia;
Aamer Madhani, “Buttigieg blasts Trump Iran escalation: ‘This is not a game. This is not a show,’” USA Today¸ (May 16, 2019);
ABC News, (May 19, 2019);
“Meet the 2020 Democrat running on foreign policy,” JewishInsider, (May 28, 2019);
Video: Seth Moulton on Israel/Palestine, (March 2019);
Rep. Seth Moulton on supporting the “Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act,” JewishInsider, (May 27, 2019);
Philip Weiss, “Israel-Palestine conflict ‘drives turmoil in the Middle East’ – Seth Moulton,” Mondoweiss, (June 13, 2019).