Vivek Ramaswamy’s Meltdown Is a Delight to Behold

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters

“Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” Nikki Haley told Vivek Ramaswamy at the second Republican presidential primary debate, before declaring that because of his use of TikTok and prior business ties with Chinese companies, “We can’t trust you.”

The challenge followed Sen. Tim Scott’s assertion that Ramaswamy’s sudden attempts to play nice, after his contentious performance at the first debate, during which he called the other candidates “bought and paid for,” seemed laughably ironic given he was “just in business with the Chinese Communist Party and the same people that funded Hunter Biden millions of dollars were partners of yours as well.”

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Ramaswamy’s defense that his company had severed those relations elicited a burn from former Vice President Mike Pence.

“I’m glad Vivek pulled out of his business deal in 2018 in China,” the candidate stated. “That must have been about the time you decided to start voting in presidential elections. So, nice to have you participate in elections.”

The hammering of Ramaswamy at the debate hopefully resulted in enough dings to send him to the bottom of the list of also-rans to Trump’s guaranteed nomination.

They followed weeks of other earned insults and deserved call-outs of Ramaswamy and his candidacy. Among these, there was the labeling of Ramaswamy as the human equivalent of “an anti-woke Facebook meme” by political scientist David Faris, “the personification of click bait,” in the estimation of Charles Blow, a “LinkedIn post come to life” according to the The New York Times Farhad Manjoo, and “the model of a high-school debate champion,” per the National Review.

On domestic policy, conservative New York Times columnist David French calls Ramaswamy “exceptionally articulate but also woefully ignorant,” while Washington Examiner contributor Ian Haworth warns that “if his style of listless foreign policy gains a foothold, the world is going to become a far more dangerous place.” Juan Williams rightfully points to how Ramaswamy leverages “anti-Black racism to advance his political ambition as a candidate in a party that is more than 80 percent white,” and The New Yorker’s Sheelah Kolhatkar observes that a “strain of animus toward Black Americans runs through much of Ramaswamy’s public commentary.”

Republican presidential candidate and former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy at the Hopkinton State Fair in Contoocook, New Hampshire.

Republican presidential candidate and former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy at the Hopkinton State Fair in Contoocook, New Hampshire, Sept. 2, 2023.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

He is, in sum, “a facile, clownish, shallow, shameless, pandering demagogue” Charlie Sykes writes, though as the Bulwark editor also notes, Ramaswamy “is exactly what GOP voters crave these days.”

Partisan divides, it seems, dissipate when the subject of Ramaswamy arises, though probably not in the way the candidate hopes when promising to “unite our country.”

In this moment, amidst so much ideological polarization and strife, it’s been heartening to witness so many people of differing political stripes arrive at the same conclusion about who Ramaswamy truly is. (Also baffling at moments, because who among us expected to agree with Karl Rove—who called Ramaswamy “a performance artist who…appeals to the dark parts of the American psyche”—considering his own fluency in the political dark arts?)

Over the last few months, it has been nothing short of gratifying to witness the steady drip of reports indicating a rising general realization that Republican presidential candidate Ramaswamy is a smug, smarmy, insufferable loudmouth, compulsive liar, and a “pick-me” little weasel.

The first Republican debate helped spread the word. Ahead of the event, a Morning Consult poll tracked Ramaswamy’s unfavorables at 12 percent, a number that shot up five points after the broadcast and which now stands at 20 percent.

NewsNation anchor Elizabeth Vargas pointed to post-debate polls showing Ramaswamy’s “negative numbers” have been rising, “especially among women,” who seem “put off” by the candidate.

Lawn signs are unpacked as presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a campaign stop  in Ohio.

Lawn signs are unpacked as presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a campaign stop on Sept. 21, 2023 in New Albany, Ohio.

Andrew Spear/Getty Images

Could it be the result of the condescension he exhibited toward his opponent, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, the only woman in the race, while arguing about foreign policy on the debate stage? Or maybe it was a bit of fallout from the smug, combative, mansplainy tone he took with CNN’s Kaitlin Collins—repeating her name as if scolding a child, talking over her questions, calling her “laughable” and a “petulant teenager”—during an interview in which he lied about his 9/11 trutherism despite having been recorded declaring it?

It’s hard to know for sure, but we can be certain that Ramaswamy has quickly become known for his demonstrated willingness to lie about pretty much anything, anytime, anywhere, even if audio exists of him saying it.

The conservative Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, meanwhile, responded to Ramaswamy’s 9/11 comments, among other views he holds, with a damning prophecy about his candidacy: “More such flights into political exotica will encourage many voters to conclude that Mr. Ramaswamy isn’t ready for his closeup, much less the demands of the presidency.”

In true Trumpian form, Ramaswamy denied supporting a 2020 Bernie Sanders plan to provide masks for every American in the early months of the COVID pandemic—even though his tweet supporting the proposed legislation is still up on the platform. (That’s what’s known as “a lie.”)

Ditto his repeated stump claim of having “never been in a room more in favor” of his numbskull plan to invade Mexico than when he spoke to a “nearly all-Black room” on Chicago’s South Side. But The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, who has followed Ramaswamy on the campaign trail and was there that day, has unequivocally stated that “nobody asked about immigration, just nobody.” (In fact, one attendee told a local Chicago paper back in June that Ramaswamy was “using Black Chicagoans as talking points for his agenda,” and wanted to “drive resentment and division.”)

When Ramaswamy tweeted about headlining an upcoming CNN Town Hall, the network almost immediately issued a denial, and the date came and went with nary a Ramaswamy appearance on CNN’s airwaves. And when MSNBC host Mehdi Hassan confronted Ramaswamy on his own tweeted words about Trump’s “downright abhorrent” and “egregious behavior” on Jan. 6, pressing the candidate on the question even as he tried to pivot to canned talking points, even conservatives including Epoch TV’s Hans Mahncke and National Review writer A.G. Hamilton applauded.

Those lies, by the way, have led Mediaite to politely describe Ramaswamy as “having a complicated relationship with the truth.” Observing his propensity for “frequently and unapologetically contorting the truth for political gain,” led The New York Times to publish a piece rounding up some of his more notable lies. Jamel Toppin, writing for Forbes about Ramaswamy’s ever shifting stances, concludes that “a candidate for inclusion in Profiles in Courage Ramaswamy is not.”

Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a campaign stop in Ohio.

Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at a campaign stop on Sept. 21, 2023, at Axium Plastics, a packaging manufacturer, in New Albany, Ohio.

Andrew Spear/Getty Images

When Ramaswamy sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity, the Fox News host seemed so expectant that he would lie about his prior comments on Israel, that Ramaswamy barely had a chance to push back before Hannity snapped, “That was the exact quote. You want me to read it?”

And Hannity’s not the only Fox News who’s had enough of Ramaswamy’s bullshit.

In response to Ramaswamy’s views regarding U.S.-Israel relations, Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy declared Ramaswamy “wrong about all that foreign policy stuff.” Jesse Watters openly laughed in Ramaswamy’s face as he reiterated fanciful plans to end the war in Ukraine and convince Vladimir Putin to cut ties with China. Frequent Fox News guest and Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen tweeted that Ramaswamy’s Russia plan is “criminally stupid,” comparing it to “a freshman foreign policy paper” and deeming it “utterly disqualifying.”

Fox News’ Shannon Bream asked Ramaswamy point blank why so many people find him annoying. Big the bigger gut punch might have come when Bream—noting his avowed refusal to serve as vice president in a potential second Trump administration—asked Ramaswamy, “So what’s the point of your campaign now?”

I guess that’s why the Murdochs seem to be all-in for Nikki Haley at this point.

And then there’s all the people who have called out Ramaswamy’s naked and unstinting use of anti-Blackness to secure white conservative votes.

Williams decried his “reckless use of racial and tribal appeals,” while Blow highlighted his insistence upon “perpetuat[ing] positions on race issues that are dismissive, corrosive and backward.” After Ramaswamy compared Black Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) to “modern grand wizards of the KKK,” and then made the point again the day after the racist massacre of Black folks in Florida, CNN’s Dana Bash showed the offensiveness of his remarks by noting the hate group “lynched people, they raped people, they murdered people, they burned their homes.” Ramaswamy, as per usual, backpedaled and positioned himself as the victim by claiming she’d cherry-picked a “fringe comment.”

But the remark was actually perfectly on brand for Ramaswamy. On his campaign website, Ramaswamy refers to Haley as “Nimarata Randhawa,” a misspelling of her birth name. Indian American journalist Bobby Ghosh suggests that Ramaswamy was seeking “to cast Haley as inauthentic.” While that’s true, more pointedly, Ramaswamy was clearly flagging that “inauthenticity” to raise Haley’s “Indianness”—that is to say her ethnic “foreignness”—to a voting base known for its xenophobia. (“This is a dog whistle,” former Trump staffer and current The View co-host Alyssa Farah Griffin tweeted. “Crazy to see it coming from a fellow Indian American.”)

The supposed dig, an unvarnished appeal to white Republican racism, proves that—despite his repeated insistence that white supremacy doesn’t exist—Ramaswamy knows racial bigotry is not only real, but a useful campaign tactic.

The point is further made by his promise to end the 14th Amendment’s provision of birthright citizenship to the children of undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that neither of Ramaswamy’s parents were U.S. citizens when he was born, making him American by virtue of…birthright citizenship. He also wants to kill H-1B highly skilled worker visas, 75 percent of which are issued to IT workers from India, according to the New Indian Express.

“I don’t think that’s a policy that’s going to be helpful to him among the AAPI population,” AAPI Data founder Karthick Ramakrishnan told NBC. “In fact, by taking a stance like that, I think he is trying to signal to Republican voters that he’s not beholden to any community, including the immigrant community or the Indian immigrant community.”

Indian economist Mihir Sharma, calling out how Ramaswamy plays into white supremacist stereotypes, called the candidate “what you get when you let being a model minority define who you are.”

Self-described “young Indian American commentator” Kaivan Shroff wrote that Ramaswamy is “one of the few high-profile young Indian American political voices, but nearly every word out of his mouth betrays the core values of the demographics he’s invoking for his deeply cynical campaign.” And Indian Canadian journalist Jeet Heer noted that “the racist con game Ramaswamy is playing might get [him] a seat at the table, but it can never win.”

Even former employees told Insider that Ramaswamy was a fastidious corporate diva who saw his staffers as hired domestics required to attend to his every quirk and “thinks people are put on this earth to serve him.” Two employees have filed separate lawsuits, both accusing his company of “aggressively pushing employees to violate securities law and of mistreating staff,” according to Bloomberg.

And of course, who can forget that Eminem sent Ramaswamy a cease and desist letter after the candidate rapped along to the 2002 classic “Lose Yourself” during an appearance at the Iowa State Fair.

While an undergrad at Harvard, Ramaswamy had a “libertarian rapper” alter ego known as Da Vek, who covered Eminem songs, which Ramaswamy says “spoke to” him. (I won’t even get into the of courseness of Ramaswamy’s favorite rapper being white.) According to his wife, Apoorna, the legal prohibition against her husband using the song “he loves” on the campaign trail was “a bummer.” The rest of us, however, are grateful.

With any luck, this trend will continue, and Ramaswamy’s ubiquity will soon end. When that finally happens, it will be a pleasure to watch him flame out.

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