Vivek Ramaswamy pulls no punches in GOP debate
Republican Presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy fiercely sparred Aug. 23 evening at the first Republican Presidential debate, held at the Fiserv Forum stadium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The debate was organized and broadcast exclusively on Fox News and its streaming service Fox Nation. Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum moderated the raucous proceedings, struggling to gain control as the eight candidates shouted and interrupted one another.
Prior to the event, political pundits posited that the evening would be a stand-off between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the 38-year-old Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur who has poured $15 million of his own money to run for office. According to various polls, the two are the strongest opponents to former President Donald Trump, the front-runner by a wide margin. Trump did not appear on the debate stage but instead released an interview with broadcast journalist Tucker Carlson on X — formerly Twitter — as the debate began.
‘Super PAC Puppets’
But Ramaswamy’s seven opponents, most notably former Vice President Mike Pence, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took aim at “the rookie” who has never previously run for office. Ramaswamy set the ground for being attacked, calling all of his opponents “super-PAC puppets.”
“I’m the only person on this stage who isn’t bought and paid for,” he said brashly to a loud chorus of boos from the audience.
Christie, who floundered throughout, elicited a bit of laughter and applause from the audience when he said of Ramaswamy: “I’ve had enough of someone who sounds like ChatGPT.”
“Now is not the time for on-the-job training. We don’t need to bring in a rookie. We don’t need to bring in someone without experience,” said Pence of Ramaswamy, eliciting both applause and boos.
Haley holds her ground
Haley — the only woman on stage — held her ground firmly throughout, often challenging her own party’s record on various issues, including the economy and abortion access.
The former South Carolina governor — who also served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations — took a shot at Ramaswamy during a question on whether the US should continue military aid to Ukraine. Ramaswamy said that, if he were president, he would stop all aid to Ukraine and shift the money to shore up US borders to stop the flow of undocumented migrants.
“You are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country,” stated Haley, alleging that Russian premiere Vladimir Putin was responsible for the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin, who had staged an armed coup against Russian military forces in May. Prigozhin was presumed dead in a plane crash that occurred earlier that day.
“He wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, he wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel,” stated Haley. “You don’t do that to friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends.”
‘No Foreign Policy Experience’
She then turned directly to Ramaswamy, who was standing next to her on the debate stage, and declared: “You have no foreign policy experience and it shows.”
Ramaswamy swung back hard, criticizing Haley for her alleged affiliation to the military defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. The two companies share around $4.2 billion of the $7 billion in weapons and equipment contracts so far awarded by the Pentagon to arm Ukraine.
“I wish you well in your future career on the boards of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon,” parried Ramaswamy. Haley could be heard denying such allegations as Ramaswamy shouted over her.