Vivek Ramaswamy slapped the “neocon” label on every other challenger to Donald Trump seeking the Republican nomination, saying he and the former president are the only “America first” candidates who aren’t pushing the country toward “World War III.”
Ramaswamy appeared Friday on the Fox News show “America Reports,” where he responded to criticism from opponent Nikki Haley, whom he lumped in with former Bush administration senior adviser Karl Rove, and the other GOP hopefuls he says have earned the label.
Anchors John Roberts and Sandra Smith asked the 38-year-old entrepreneur from Ohio what distinguishes him from the other Republican challengers to Trump, a week after the candidates met for the first time on a debate stage in Milwaukee.
“A real distinction, I think, is that I’m the only candidate who is a non-neocon,” Ramaswamy said. “I believe in asserting American interests, but only where it advances the U.S. interest. I’m very different from other candidates who would sooner send troops to defend invasion across somebody else’s border than the invasion on our own southern border in this country.”
The term “neocons” arose in the 1960s to describe hawkish, “peace through strength” conservatives who favor military intervention and preventative action. The label peaked with President George W. Bush and his advisers who pushed the War on Terror in the early Aughts.
“I worry that many in the neocon establishment are quietly marching us into World War III, serious armed conflict with other nuclear powers, including the combination of the Russia-China alliance,” Ramaswamy continued. “I am the only candidate in the race who has pointed out the alliance and the threat it poses, and the clear plan to pull them apart from each other.”
Ramaswamy said not only was his stance on American military involvement overseas a distinction – but that it might be among one of the only ones between the challengers to Trump.
“Everybody agrees men should not be swimming in women’s competitions, we agree on that, but foreign policy distinguishes me from the Karl Rove, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Chris Christie wing – and I think that debate is good for our party,” Ramaswamy said.
Haley had criticized Ramaswamy’s views on Israel, then came after him again after he moved to clarify those remarks.
“Is it true to say you are walking back some claims and walking back … ” Smith began to ask.
“Not at all. Not at all,” Ramaswamy said. “I’ve stood firmly for advancing American interests. I’ve been very clear that our relationship with Israel, by the end of my first term, will be stronger than it has ever been because I will treat it as a true friendship, not a transactional relationship. … I have said we would back Israel fully, militarily. But I don’t want our sons and daughters, U.S. troops to die in that conflict.”
He also noted that “every other Republican in the race [backs] a ‘one-China’ policy, refusing to call Taiwan a nation. … That’s our current status quo with respect to China. I think it’s insufficient.”
Finally, Roberts and Smith asked what, if anything, differentiates Ramaswamy from Trump.
“I’m 38 years old. I have fresh legs,” he said. “We are reaching the next generation of young Americans. That is why I can win this election in a landslide, in a way that no other candidate can. … I think this cannot be a 50 point won election. I think it has to be a landslide moral mandate like Ronald Reagan delivered in 1980. That’s what I’m aiming to do in 2024.”
But Smith pushed back: “Does that mean you are directly aligned with his policies? I didn’t hear a difference other than age.”
“We have some areas of differences but they are small,” Ramaswamy replied. “We are the America first candidates, everybody else embraces the neocon view.”
Watch the entire exchange in the video above.