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The Smarmy Ramaswamy
... who is he and why should you care?
While I was vacationing up in Maine recently, I had planned to ignore the news and, to the extent it’s possible in the current era, shut myself off from the dark and unnerving forces of politics and the presidential campaign.
But when last Wednesday night rolled around, I knew I had to watch the Republican presidential debate because it was obvious that readers would expect me to write about it — either here or at my other gig at CTNewsJunkie. So I excused myself from my much wiser friends and streamed the debate on Rumble.
It was evident from the get-go who the star would be. Not only was biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy’s lecturn placed strategically in the center of the group of eight candidates on the stage in Urbandale, Iowa, but he was the one receiving the brunt of the rockets candidates routinely fire at such events.
There are two obvious reasons why. Former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner by far, decided he had nothing to gain from participating in the debate, where he would be subject to aggressive attacks from the likes of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, so he took a pass. That left Ramaswamy, the Trumpiest candidate on the stage, as the most attractive stand-in for the ex-president, whom moderator Bret Baier aptly called “the elephant not in the room.”
Ramaswamy has taken some oddball positions, notably that the U.S. should withdraw its support for Ukraine, which is defending itself from a Russian invasion, and that Ukraine should essentially surrender and cede eastern portions of its territory to the aggressor. Ramaswamy has also suggested it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if China were to seize Taiwan — though he appears to be walking it back slightly. Yes, this is the same Taiwan the State Department calls “an important U.S. partner in trade and investment, health, semiconductor and other critical supply chains, investment screening, science and technology, education, and advancing democratic values.”
For that he got a dressing down from former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who fiercely berated Ramaswamy. In a line that was surely rehearsed, Christie said Ramaswamy sounded like “Chat GPT.”
Another of his proposals, civic-duty voting, is complete lunacy: a constitutional amendment requiring citizens 18 to 24 to pass a civics test in order to vote — the same test immigrants take to become naturalized U.S. citizens. If they wanted to vote without passing the test, young Americans could perform six months of military or first-responder service. Failing that, they would have to wait until they turn 25 before they could vote in their first election.
The logic behind Ramaswamy’s cynical proposal should be obvious. Republicans perform poorly with younger voters. So Ramaswamy wants to take them out of the equation, with the exception of military and first responders (police, fire, EMS) — all typical Republican constituencies. If anything, it’s the very old voters who should be taken off the voting rolls because they probably won’t even live to feel the consequences of their votes, as one of the commentators noted in The Hill video below:
Oddly, Ramaswamy said Trump is “the greatest president of the 21st century.” Someone should have asked Ramaswamy why he was running against Trump for the nomination if he thought the man was worthy of such superlatives.
Like Trump before he was elected in 2016, Ramaswamy, a 37-year-old whose parents are Indian immigrants, has never even run for dog catcher. He is much better educated and much more articulate than Trump. In other words, he is Trump on steroids.
With the exception of Christie and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the candidates on the stage were — and still are — afraid to attack Trump for fear of offending his supporters. So they turned their sites on Ramaswamy, who is Trump with a much larger brain.
This leads to the question, posed most recently by exiled former CNN analyst and Connecticut native Chris Cillizza, of why so many people hate Ramaswamy, :
In a word, the Harvard-educated Ramaswamy is smarmy, hyper-aggressive and goes out of his way to sound like a know-it-all. Or, as Karl Rove put it in the Wall Street Journal (free link), Ramaswamy is a “performance artist who says outrageous things, smears his opponents and appeals to the dark parts of the American psyche.” And unlike Trump, Ramaswamy appears to have no sense of humor.
So what accounts for Ramaswamy’s success? After all, he’s now placing third in most GOP presidential polls, behind Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Many of the other candidates try to sound Trumpy by mimicking some of the former president’s proposals and rhetoric, but that’s very difficult for anyone other than Trump to pull off.
Part of Trump’s appeal is his showmanship. Until recently, the awkward DeSantis could barely complete a sentence without invoking the word “woke.” Tim Scott (all biography and no message) likes to complain about how we have a “two-tiered justice system.” Both men try to echo Trump but they can’t put on a show. Ramaswamy can. He routinely employs what Tim Miller of the Bulwark calls “performative bullshittery.”
All of this raises the question of whether Ramaswamy is running a stealth campaign for veep. If so, he just might get the part.
Vivek Ramaswamy’s Taiwan Education (free link) - Wall Street Journal Editorial Board “The presidential candidate walks back his initial views, albeit not enough.”
The Articulate Ignorance of Vivek Ramaswamy (free link) - David French, New York Times
“Despite his confident delivery, a great deal of what he says makes no sense whatsoever.”
And by yours truly:
Cannabis Industry ‘In Peril’: What Are The Implications For Connecticut? - CTNewsJunkie
“Connecticut has lagged behind many other states in legalizing the sale and use of recreational cannabis products. This might be one case where being late to the game can be useful because we can learn from the mistakes of others.”