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2 Sep, 2023 17:08

Can American voters trust rising Republican star Vivek Ramaswamy?

The ‘skinny guy with a funny name’ is proclaiming himself a Trump fan and MAGA follower now, but that’s a very recent about-face
Can American voters trust rising Republican star Vivek Ramaswamy?

As many Americans are now familiarizing themselves with Vivek Ramaswamy, a smooth-talking Republican candidate who is quickly climbing in the polls, it might be wise to read the fine print on this novice first.  

During the first debate of the Republican primaries on August 23, Google search was reportedly on fire as millions of Americans wanted to learn more about the articulate young man named who seemed to take great delight in verbally jousting with his fellow conservatives, among whom were former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Ramaswamy began his performance by attempting to resolve the mystery of his identity when he told the assembly, “So first let me just address a question that is on everybody’s mind at home tonight: ‘Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name and what the heck is he doing in the middle of this debate stage?’”

Chris Christie, one of the seven veteran politicians on stage, was not fooled as he immediately recalled the time when two-term Democratic President Barack Obama made his political debut uttering nearly the very same line.

“The last person who stood up here saying, ‘What’s a skinny guy with an odd last name doing up here?’ was Barack Obama, and I’m afraid we’re dealing with the same type of amateur standing on the stage tonight,” Christie said.

As it turned out, Christie was right. In 2004, Obama was invited to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, where he spoke about “the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him too.” Since the speech is widely believed to have been Obama’s political breakout moment, many expressed bewilderment that Ramaswamy would plagiarize a line from a famous politician – and a Democrat, to boot – that many people would quickly remember.

Yet Ramaswamy kept his cool and turned the tables on Christie by saying, “give me a hug just like you did Obama, and you’ll help elect me just like you helped Obama, too.” The reference was to a moment in 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy when then-New Jersey Governor Christie was seen meeting then-President Obama on the tarmac and putting his arm around the Democratic leader, a gesture that some critics say helped Obama seal the presidency for a second term.

So who is the skinny guy with a funny-sounding name and what are his political beliefs? Vivek (rhymes with ‘cake’, he says) Ramaswamy, 38, is a second-generation immigrant from India who has become a multi-millionaire in the pharmaceutical and financial sectors. He formally entered the US presidential race in February by lamenting what he called a “national identity crisis” afflicting the nation due to “woke insanity.” He asserts the movement is promoted by a left-wing ideology that has substituted “faith, patriotism and hard work” with “new secular religions” like “climatism,” gender ideology and critical race studies.

In addition to supporting many of the talking points found in Donald Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) platform, Ramaswamy swore his loyalty to the legally embattled 45th president when he gratuitously pronounced during the primaries, “Let’s just speak the truth, okay? President Trump, I believe, was the best president of the 21st century. It’s a fact.”

The comment, which attracted no shortage of cheap applause, came off as rather stiff and unexpected considering that Trump is still very much in the presidential race, despite facing multiple criminal charges. Even stranger is that Ramaswamy’s support for Trump seems to change with the legal seasons.

On August 1, federal prosecutors presented their 45-page indictment against Trump, alleging that he pressed election officials to reject voting results in their states in order to overturn the election. Ramaswamy blasted the latest round of indictments targeting the Republican Party’s top candidate, writing on X (formerly Twitter): “Donald Trump isn’t the cause of what happened on Jan 6. The real cause was systematic & pervasive censorship of citizens in the year leading up to it. If you tell people they can’t speak, that’s when they scream.”

Yet compare that to what Ramaswamy had to say about Trump’s response to the January 6 insurrection/protest/rebellion/riot/take your pick just days after the Capitol building was breached by hundreds of Orange Man supporters.

“What Trump did last week was wrong. Downright abhorrent. Plain and simple.”

Still, that is nothing compared to what the pharmaceutical mogul had to say about Trump in his 2022 book, ‘Nation of Victims’, which sounds as though it were penned by the most progressive leftist in the Democratic Party.

“It was a dark day for democracy. The loser of the last election refused to concede the race, claimed the election was stolen, raised hundreds of millions of dollars from loyal supporters, and is considering running for executive office again.

I’m referring, of course, to Donald Trump.”

While Ramaswamy is certainly not the first politician to adjust his sails according to the shifting political winds, his change of tune about Trump when it became clear he was still the frontrunner in the 2024 race, criminal charges notwithstanding, was quite remarkable. Yet it did not alienate him from the Republican base, while Trump, who needs all the friends he can get at this point, has declared himself a fan of the fawning upstart.

“This answer gave Vivek Ramaswamy a big WIN in the debate because of a thing called TRUTH,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. “Thank you Vivek!”

Questions about the ‘skinny guy with the funny-sounding name,’ however, do not end there. In 2011, Ramaswamy accepted a $90,000 scholarship from the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, which was founded by Daisy and Paul Soros, the now-deceased older brother of billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros.

People are criticizing the young Republican upstart not because of the award’s familial connection to the controversial George Soros, but because he severely understated his financial position at the time, suggesting he needed the scholarship to afford tuition at Yale Law School. As it turned out that was not true.

“There was a separate scholarship that I won at the age of 24-25, when I was going to law school … when I didn’t have the money and it was a merit scholarship that hundreds of kids win, that was partially funded, not by George Soros, but by Paul Soros a relative, his brother,” Ramaswamy said.

In 2011, the same year he accepted the scholarship, Ramaswamy reported $2,252,209 in total income, according to his tax returns, which he released in June. He reported a total of $1,173,690 in income in the three years prior. In other words, Ramaswamy was a millionaire when he accepted the $90,000 award, which could have been presented to another person who truly needed it.

Meanwhile, other people are asking if America really needs a pharmaceutical executive in the White House after the nation just passed through long months of lockdowns, forced mask-wearing, and a mandatory vaccine regime. Once again, Ramaswamy’s track record on this issue leaves a lot to be desired.

Ramaswamy, the first millennial to seek the presidency, has painstakingly portrayed himself as an anti-government libertarian. Yet his track record, at least when it came to wearing a mask and getting vaccinated during the pandemic, suggests just the opposite.

Back in April 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci famously backpedaled from his previous stance that Americans could exercise personal discretion when deciding to wear a mask, a position that perfectly reflects libertarian thinking. Instead, he advised wearing face masks as a way to help stop the spread of Covid-19. Now if Ramaswamy were truly opposed to the imposition of government dictate in people’s lives, he would have automatically challenged Fauci’s volte-face on mask wearing, insisting that people use their own personal discretion. Rather, he immediately hopped on the bandwagon, tweeting on July 8, 2020, “Wearing a mask = personal responsibility. It’s puzzling when conservatives oppose it.”

The same thing happened when the Biden administration rolled out its enforced vaccine initiative when millions of people were forced to either take the shot or lose their jobs. Ramaswamy once again swam with the sharks.  

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, dated January 10, 2022, he wrote: “The most important step in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic was the distribution of vaccines.” Before that, he bent a knee to the Democratic Party when he tweeted, “Biden says all adults will be vaccine-eligible by May 1. That’s good news. Give credit where due.”

The point here is not whether it was right or wrong to make mask-wearing and vaccinations mandatory. The point is that Ramaswamy completely misrepresented himself by saying that he was a libertarian, when clearly he is not. That misidentification could have serious consequences down the road if and when the next pandemic breaks out and politicians attempt to exert more control over the lives, as well as the businesses, of their constituents. Moreover, for someone who is so terrified of government, how is it that Ramaswamy’s spinoff company Datavant is collaborating with the government on the anti-Covid front?

All of this suggests that Ramaswamy was not wrong to compare himself in passing to Obama, the Democratic leader who many Americans, especially among the black community, consider to have been a hugely ineffective leader. Ramaswamy could turn out to be the Republican Party’s Barack Obama if conservative voters fail to understand he is not the anti-government superhero he’s pretending to be. And with Covid rates ticking upwards again (which some wits have dubbed the ‘election variant’), and the grungy mask coming back in fashion, the American people may soon discover that smooth-talking Vivek Ramaswamy is just a skinny pharmaceutical executive with a funny sounding name who will rigorously promote big business and invasive government over civil rights and freedom every time the opportunity arises.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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