Guest Column
Vivek Ramaswamy, you will learn that swagger isn’t substance | Column
Making buckets of money doesn’t make you presidential timber, sir.
Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's fall banquet on Sept. 16 in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)
Republican presidential candidate businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's fall banquet on Sept. 16 in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave) [ BRYON HOULGRAVE | AP ]
Published Sept. 22

Dear Vivek,

It’s time to get real. With the second Republican presidential debate just days away, you’re going to need to do more than put on a show to attract voters.

Dick Batchelor
Dick Batchelor [ Dick Batchelor ]

Sure you grabbed headlines and attention last month with your aggressive style during the opening GOP debate. But while your performance — part pit bull, part promoter — bumped up some poll numbers (favorable and unfavorable), it also turned the spotlight toward your experience. Or, more precisely, lack thereof.

I’m not dismissing your background as an Ivy League biotech entrepreneur who has made millions of dollars. But when I look at your positions, I’m left wondering what makes you qualified to lead the world’s most powerful country — or be second in command.

Predictably, you’re not a believer in global warming, even calling the “climate change agenda” a “hoax” during the first debate. So much for science. You’ve also likened the LGBTQ+ movement to a cult. So much for inclusivity. Then again, diversity, equity and inclusion programs have no place in your America First 2.0 agenda.

Here’s something that does: gutting the federal government.

You’re prepared to slice and dice critical services, eliminating more than 75% of the workforce and shuttering the FBI, the IRS and other agencies that you’ve deemed “toxic.” Maybe campaign promises like that stir up voters who distrust Washington and everything and everyone in it. But, Vivek, is your radical plan even possible?

You claim that if elected, you could take a hatchet to the bureaucracy all by yourself. You wouldn’t even need Congress. Does that sound familiar? Former president and current Republican front-runner Donald Trump talks like that too. It’s a rallying cry.

But let’s be honest here. Legal experts question whether your plan to dismantle the federal civil service would survive a court challenge.

Then there’s your fast talk on foreign affairs. Take Ukraine. No fan of continuing U.S. support for the war-torn country and other spending abroad, you recently declared on a conservative platform that “We will be Uncle Sucker no more.”

Catchy, maybe. But while you have no trouble coming up with campaign quips, you do have trouble answering direct questions.

During a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, you danced around the question of whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. Should you get asked again, here are two options: “Yes.” “No.” Pick one. And remember, you can always explain your choice. The point is to answer.

On Taiwan, you have suggested a puzzling strategy for the island’s defense against Chinese aggression. It involves semiconductors and guns.

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You advocate backing Taiwan, a behemoth in semiconductor production, until the U.S. has all the chips it needs. After that, well, you seem to be saying it just might not be in our interest to defend Taiwan.

Here’s why you might not be overly concerned: Part of your strategy to help deter a Chinese invasion is to make sure every Taiwanese household has a gun and knows how to use it. In your words, “export the Second Amendment” to Taiwan.

You’re a Second Amendment absolutist, so your approach to Taiwan is not a stretch. In fact, at home, where mass shootings just topped 500 this year, you even back gun ownership for convicted felons. Vivek, let’s agree that we don’t want to export our violence.

Listen, I’m all in for people entering politics and serving the public good. I ran — and won — my first race at 26, 12 years younger than you are now. I had a good understanding of the issues in the Florida House of Representatives, but I was smart enough to seek out seasoned lawmakers to fill in any gaps.

You say you’ll reach out too, just not in the same way. In a Ramaswamy administration, you would bring in Elon Musk and Trump as advisers — Musk because of his experience slashing X, formerly Twitter, and Trump because, well, he’s Trump. You’ve already pledged to pardon him, so why not open the door to the White House again? Talk about seasoned!

Vivek, the longer you’re on the campaign trail, the more I’m getting to know you. And what I’m finding, from your slash-and-burn approach to governing to your unconventional foreign policy positions, is that you’re naive at best, dangerous at worst.

Here’s a reality check before Wednesday’s debate: It takes more than swagger to get elected and govern effectively. It takes substance.

Dick Batchelor is an Orlando business consultant and former Florida legislator. He is a Democrat.