No love lost: Toxic pathology between Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy on display in US presidential debate

If the Indian American community had any expectations of civility between Haley and Ramaswamy engendered by their shared ethnic roots, they were belied from the get-go of the presidential debates. 

Mayank Chhaya Dec 08, 2023
Image
Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy

To say that the two Indian American Republican presidential aspirants Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy cannot stand each other is to understate it. 

There is a near toxic pathology between the two that constantly causes turbulence. This year’s last Republican presidential debate in the US on Wednesday on News Nation stood out for frequent looks of withering disgust that Haley, a former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, gave Ramaswamy. 

When the upstart entrepreneur held up a notepad that said “Nikki = Corrupt”, Haley seemed to be seething under her breath. 

“After the third debate, when I criticized Ronna McDaniel after five failed years of leadership of this party and criticized Nikki for her corrupt foreign dealings as a military contractor, she said that I have a woman problem. Nikki, I don’t have a woman problem. You have a corruption problem. And I think that that’s what people need to know. Nikki is corrupt,” Ramaswamy said while holding up the sign.  

Asked if she would like to respond to the personal attack, she said dismissively, “No, it’s not worth my time to respond to him.”  

It would appear as if Ramaswamy sees a potential pathway for him to the leading contender, former President Donald Trump by mounting unvarnished attacks on Haley.  

Barely concealed animus 

For the Indian American community, it may feel counterintuitive that two of their own have no love lost between them. It is one thing to have policy and ideological disagreements, but it is entirely something else to have their kind of barely concealed animus. 

At one point Ramaswamy said, “One thing that Joe Biden and Nikki Haley have in common is that neither of them could even state for you three provinces in Eastern Ukraine that they want to send our troops to actually fight for.” 

“Look at the blank expression,” Ramaswamy said amid boos by the audience, adding, “She doesn’t know the names of the provinces she wants to fight for.” 

That triggered former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to stand up for Haley saying she "is a smart accomplished woman" and he should "stop insulting her." 

Christie also had what was perhaps the most singeing line of the debate aimed at Ramaswamy when he said, “Let me tell you something, this is the fourth debate that you would be voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America. So shut up for a little while.” 

Later appearing on CNN, Christie said he does believe that Ramaswamy has a “woman problem” in that he tends to ridicule and insult them often. 

Most likely prospective nominee 

Going by the number of times Haley was under attack from Ramaswamy, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and even Christie, it is obvious that other than Trump she has become the most likely prospective nominee.  

If the Indian American community had any expectations of civility between Haley and Ramaswamy engendered by their shared ethnic roots, they were belied from the get-go of the presidential debates. The two have been engaged in castigation of the other that might be considered uncharacteristic for fellow Indian Americans. At this stage there is no possibility of anything changing between the two, especially from Haley’s side because there is enough in her body language to suggest total contempt for Ramaswamy. 

On his part, for some inexplicable reasons, Ramaswamy seems to think that being an “obnoxious blowhard” in the words of Christie, is his pathway to relevance in the Republican race.  

On her part, Haley has chosen to be derisively dismissive of Ramaswamy. 

(The author is a Chicago-based journalist, author and filmmaker. Views are personal. By arrangement with Indica News)

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