Donald Trump’s Republican rivals vow to back Israel, argue over China and Ukraine at 3rd debate

In their first debate since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the Republican presidential candidates all declared support for Israel but squabbled over China and Ukraine as they faced growing pressure to try to catch Donald Trump, who was again absent.

Sparring over several issues were Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who has appeared competitive with Mr. DeSantis’ distant second-place position in some national polls. Much of the debate focused on policy — especially foreign policy issues — rather than Mr. Trump and his record.

Ms. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, declared she would end trade relations with China “until they stop murdering Americans from fentanyl — something Ron has yet to say that he’s going to do.” In return, the Florida governor said Ms. Haley “welcomed” Chinese investment to her state, referencing a land deal with a Chinese manufacturer while she led South Carolina.

All five candidates face growing urgency, with the leadoff Iowa caucuses just a little more than two months away, to cut into Mr. Trump’s huge margins in the 2024 primary and establish themselves as a clear alternative. But it’s not clear many Republican primary voters want a Trump alternative. And given his dominance in early state and national polls, Mr. Trump again skipped the debate to deprive his rivals of attention.

On beating Trump

Mr. Trump was the subject of the debate’s first question, when moderators asked each candidate to explain why they were the right person to beat him.

Mr. DeSantis said, “He owes it to you to be on this stage and explain why he should get another chance.” He suggested Mr. Trump had lost a step since winning the White House in 2016, saying he failed to follow through on his “America First” policies.

Ms. Haley, who is pulling some voter and donor curiosity from Mr. DeSantis, said Mr. Trump “used to be right” on supporting Ukraine but “now he’s getting weak in the knees.”

But the conversation moved on to policy issues with relatively few head-to-head confrontations. The moderators often declined to call on candidates who were mentioned by others onstage, as is normally the custom.

The DeSantis and Haley campaigns for months have attacked each other on China, long a topic of scorn in GOP primaries. Their allied super PACs have run ads in early primary states alleging the other side is soft on Beijing.

Ms. Haley also accused Mr. DeSantis of being a “liberal” on the environment for opposing the extraction of fossil fuels off Florida’s coast — a process known as fracking — and dared him to “just own it.”

“We are absolutely going to frack, but I disagree with Nikki Haley. I don’t think it’s a good idea to drill in the Florida Everglades and I know most Floridians agree with me,” he responded.

Abortion rights

Abortion was also a topic of the debate after Democrats and abortion rights supporters won several statewide races in Tuesday’s elections.

Mr. DeSantis, who signed a six-week abortion ban in Florida, said anti-abortion activists were “flat-footed” in mobilising and noted that people who voted for the measures included Republicans who have previously supported GOP candidates.

Ms. Haley, long credited by anti-abortion group leaders for how she talks about the issue, called abortion “a personal issue for every woman and every man” and said she doesn’t “judge anyone for being pro-choice.”

She said Republicans need to acknowledge they don’t have the votes in Congress to pass a national abortion ban but should instead work to find some consensus to “ban late-term abortions,” make contraception available and ensure that states don’t pass laws that punish women for getting abortions.

Ramaswamy chimes in

Also appearing onstage Wednesday were South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Mr. Scott frequently referenced the Bible and appealed to the Christian faith of many Republican primary voters, echoing his campaign themes and his singular focus on Iowa, where white evangelical voters are an influential bloc.

Mr. Christie defended U.S. support for Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion, saying that for the U.S.: “This is not a choice. This is the price we pay for being the leaders of the free world.”

Mr. Ramaswamy tried several times to push his way into the centre of the debate. Having long styled himself as someone willing to challenge his rivals, Mr. Ramaswamy repeatedly went after other candidates, notably Ms. Haley, who tussled with him in the first two debates.

Ms. Haley seemed to ignore his first barbs, but snapped during a discussion about the social media app TikTok, which many Republicans want banned in the U.S. due to its parent company’s ties to China.

Mr. Ramaswamy accused Haley’s daughter of having had her own TikTok account until recently. Responded Mr. Haley, “Leave my daughter out of your voice!” She then told him, “You’re just scum.”

Backing Israel

All the candidates said they were staunchly behind Israel as it mounts an offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 people. The candidates did not discuss humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza as the number of Palestinians killed in the war passed 10,500, including more than 4,300 children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

Several also said they would pressure college campuses to crack down on antisemitism.

Mr. Trump has retained huge leads despite his efforts to try to overturn his 2020 election loss, his embrace of those jailed for storming the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and his four criminal indictments and a civil fraud case against his businesses, for which he testified in New York this week.

His campaign has worked to overpower Mr. DeSantis in their shared home state and publicly said it wants to score blowout wins in early primary states to seal the nomination.

Mr. Trump held a rally for several thousand people at a stadium in the Cuban American hub of Hialeah that his campaign designed to demonstrate his strength with Latino voters. He was endorsed by his former White House press secretary, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Also speaking at the rally were comedian Roseanne Barr and mixed martial arts fighter Jorge Masvidal.

Mr. Trump claimed no one was watching the debate and said holding a rally was much harder than going on a debate stage.

One attendee, Paul Rodriguez, said: “I go to all Trump events. I hope common sense returns to America. Donald Trump speaks for us, while Democrats do it for corporations and other countries.”

Senior Trump adviser Chris LaCivita issued a statement at the end of the debate calling it a “complete waste of time and money.”

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told reporters after the debate that she’s discussed the upcoming debates with Trump but doesn’t expect him to join.

“I don’t think he’s going to get on the debate stage. He’s made that clear,” she said. “He feels as a former president, he shouldn’t have to be on the debate stage, that he’s going to earn the nomination a different way. We’re going to let the process play out and whoever wins the nomination, we’re all going to get behind.”

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Checks & Imbalances: Vivek Ramaswamy’s Driving Obsession

Today we take a close look at Vivek Ramaswamy’s business career – and what it tells us about his political ambitions.

This Surprising Obsession Drives Vivek Ramaswamy And His Presidential Campaign

On what feels like the hottest morning amid the hottest August in recorded history, Vivek Ramaswamy sits coolly on a plush leather couch in his campaign bus, chomping on an apple and brimming with self-belief, reports John Hyatt. Thirty-six hours earlier, the 38-year-old political neophyte was the breakout star in the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 primary season. “My gut instinct is that I’m going to be the nominee, that I’m going to win the general election in a landslide,” he says, before positing why that could be: “I think I am closer to Trump in 2015 than Trump today is to Trump in 2015. You only get to be the outsider once.”

That’s among the more truthful things he’s in the habit of saying. Eight years ago, Donald Trump turned every American political assumption upside down. He ran for president as a businessman without any political experience, any realistic platform or any repercussions from scandals that would have blown out pretty much every politician, ever. Instead, he was grievance personified, which, combined with uncanny messaging instincts, enabled him to pull an inside straight and punch his ticket to the White House.

MORE FROM FORBESThis Surprising Obsession Drives Vivek Ramaswamy And His Presidential Campaign

Tracking Trump

How Trump, Master Of Avoiding Paper Trails, Finally Got Caught With One

Donald Trump has all kinds of tricks to avoid paper trails. He refuses to use email. He ditches cell phones. He’s famous for tearing documents to shreds, reports Dan Alexander. And when asked about something nefarious, like the inflated net worth statements he sent to lenders over the years, he feigns ignorance, even to authorities: “I didn’t get involved in it very much.”

But it’s hard to both convince lenders that you stand by documents and to persuade prosecutors that you had little to do with those same documents. That explains how Trump landed in his current predicament, accused by New York State of engaging in a years-long fraud by telling banks and insurers he had more money than he actually did. Judge Arthur Engoron sided with prosecutors Tuesday, ruling before the trial had even started that Trump was personally liable for fraud.

MORE FROM FORBESHow Trump, Master Of Avoiding Paper Trails, Finally Got Caught With One

Did Judge Kill The Trump Organization? What Fraud Ruling Means For Ex-President’s Business

A New York judge ordered the dissolution of businesses owned by former President Donald Trump and his associates in a ruling Tuesday that found the ex-president and his company committed fraud—a decision that could have a devastating impact on Trump’s company and its operations in New York, though the full scope of the order still remains to be seen, reports Alison Durkee.

MORE FROM FORBESDid Judge Kill The Trump Organization? What Fraud Ruling Means For Ex-President’s Business

By The Numbers

$17.5 billion

The estimated value of Rupert Murdoch and family’s fortune.


The amount of campaign donations Sen. John Fetterman (D-Penn.) plans to return to Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), “in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills,” after the latter was indicted.

At least eight

The number of investigations, criminal cases and lawsuits involving Rudy Guiliani.

From The News Desk

How TikTok Has Exposed Celebrities And Politicians’ Closest Personal Contacts

Beyonce. Ed Sheeran. Charli D’Amelio. The Bidens. Members of Congress. Abortion activists.

They’re just a handful of the high-profile celebrities and public figures whose closest contacts could be searched and scrutinized by nearly any TikTok or ByteDance employee around the world this year with few restrictions, according to people familiar with one of the company’s social graph tools and a trove of internal images, videos, audio and communications related to it that were obtained by Forbes, reports Alexandra S. Levine.

MORE FROM FORBESHow TikTok Has Exposed Celebrities And Politicians’ Closest Personal Contacts

Sen. Robert Menendez Pleads Not Guilty To Bribery Charges

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) pleaded not guilty to three felony counts Wednesday after being indicted for allegedly taking bribes from several New Jersey businessmen, marking Menendez’s second set of criminal charges—as the senator maintains his innocence in the case and refuses to leave Congress, reports Alison Durkee.

MORE FROM FORBESSen. Robert Menendez Pleads Not Guilty To Bribery Charges

Here’s How Much 2024 Presidential Candidate Larry Elder Is Worth

Larry Elder pitches his presidential campaign as an act of personal sacrifice, reports Monica Hunter-Hart. “I’m not flush like some of the other candidates, so this is a big financial hit for me,” says the California media icon, who Forbes estimates is worth $4 million. “I gave up my nationally syndicated column. I gave up my radio show. I gave up my TV show.”

MORE FROM FORBESHere’s How Much 2024 Presidential Candidate Larry Elder Is Worth

Bernie Sanders Has Hauled In $2.5 Million In Book Payments Since 2011

Sen. Bernie Sanders earned $2.5 million from book advances and royalties from 2011 through 2022, according to his annual financial disclosures. During that period, political committees for the Vermont independent bought $843,000 worth of books from his publishers.

MORE FROM FORBESBernie Sanders Has Hauled In $2.5 Million In Book Payments Since 2011


Vivek Ramaswamy named his biotech company Roivant Sciences. What does “Roi” stand for?

a. Radiating overconfidence internally

b. Return on investment

c. Riding on Iowa

d. Rupture of integrity

Check if you got it right here.

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This Surprising Obsession Drives Vivek Ramaswamy And His Presidential Campaign

Vivek Ramaswamy’s fixation on maximizing his own ROI made him a billionaire at 38 and is fueling his meteoric rise as Trump 2.0. Win or lose in 2024, the biotech tycoon will emerge richer and more influential than ever–exactly how he planned it.

By John Hyatt, Forbes Staff

Onwhat feels like the hottest morning amid the hottest August in recorded history, Vivek Ramaswamy sits coolly on a plush leather couch in his campaign bus, chomping on an apple and brimming with self-belief. Thirty-six hours earlier, the 38-year-old political neophyte was the breakout star in the first Republican presidential debate of the 2024 primary season. “My gut instinct is that I’m going to be the nominee, that I’m going to win the general election in a landslide,” he says, before positing why that could be: “I think I am closer to Trump in 2015 than Trump today is to Trump in 2015. You only get to be the outsider once.”

That’s among the more truthful things he’s in the habit of saying. Eight years ago, Donald Trump turned every American political assumption upside down. He ran for president as a businessman without any political experience, any realistic platform or any repercussions from scandals that would have blown out pretty much every politician, ever. Instead, he was grievance personified, which, combined with uncanny messaging instincts, enabled him to pull an inside straight and punch his ticket to the White House.

That’s what makes Ramaswamy’s campaign important. It turns out that Trump wasn’t an aberration—as his juggernaut non-campaign currently underscores—but rather a template. The hottest candidate in the GOP field isn’t the Florida governor, the South Carolina senator or even the former vice president. It’s yet another tycoon (Ramaswamy edged into billionaire status earlier this year) with a penchant for TV hits and the often inaccurate, sometimes outrageous and highly calibrated statements that feed them.

As political pundits try to analyze Ramaswamy’s rise through a Washington lens, the answers are wildly evident to anyone who has followed his business career. “This will be the highest return on investment endeavor ever taken up in the pharmaceutical industry,” he told Forbes in a 2015 cover story, shortly after he launched the biggest public offering in the history of biotech, less than two years after he landed on the 30 Under 30 list.

The key phrase there: return on investment. ROI drives just about everything in Ramaswamy-land, from education choices to friendships to business operations. It’s embedded in the name of the holding company that drove most of his wealth, Roivant Sciences. And it explains why he chose to run for president, how he’s campaigning and what he’s going to do with his newfound fame and influence.

ROI serves the perspective of the investor (how much appreciation a dollar can get, with mission as a byproduct) rather than that of the entrepreneur or operator (what problem can be solved, with money as a byproduct). In politics, that correlates to jacking poll numbers as high as possible for as little spend as possible, versus a campaign centered on best governing principles. Ramaswamy has mastered the red meat formula that Trump battle tested, with promises to abolish the FBI and Department of Education, fire 75 percent of federal workers and cut off aid to Ukraine, even as it remains under Russian assault. As Ramaswamy himself noted, he’s trying to out-Trump Trump, and his polling numbers have increased in lockstep with his bombast.

“Increasing the value of Roivant was the corporate strategy. Drugs happened to be a way to do it.” 

But there’s another way to generate ROI here: Running for president is great for your profile. A grab bag of nonpolitical opportunists, narcissists and hucksters from both ends of the political spectrum have figured this out, from Herman Cain to Marianne Williamson to Ben Carson to Robert Kennedy Jr. And now Ramaswamy has innovated yet again—in the form of an investment operation, Strive Asset Management, which dovetails with his antiwoke political message. That creates yet another way for him to win, even if he loses.

Ramaswamy’s returns-at-all-costs ethos has roots in his childhood. His parents left India, despite their Brahmin caste and sterling credentials, to pursue a better life in the U.S. His father, an engineer, took a job at General Electric; his mother, a geriatric psychiatrist, worked at Merck. They settled in Ohio and eventually sent their eldest son, Vivek, to St. Xavier, a Jesuit school just outside Cincinnati, despite the fact that he was (and remains) a practicing Hindu—it was an elite private school that could catapult him.

At Harvard, he emerged as something of a machine, a young, handsome charmer with boundless ambition and the habits to match. He chaired the political union, competed on the school’s club tennis team, performed as libertarian rapper Da Vek, worked for renowned stem cell scientist Douglas Melton and cofounded a fundraising platform for student entrepreneurs. Even his literal appetite was boundless. “I’ve never seen somebody eat as much as he does,” says Anson Frericks, Ramaswamy’s high school friend, who later helped him found Strive. “When you sit at a meal with him, he’ll order three or four meals.”

“The Vivek I thought I knew is not the public persona we see today. Either he changed his tune, or he always believed what he now says.” 

Summer trips to his father’s southern Indian village, where he saw the caste system limit opportunities, cemented his belief in the American economic system. “We don’t have to flog ourselves for capitalism,” he says, addressing a packed diner in Milford, New Hampshire. “Stop apologizing for capitalism.”

Emerging from Harvard, though, he was drawn not to the capitalism of business builders like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos or Nike’s Phil Knight, but rather the transactional flavor that seeks efficiency and alpha. His first job was at a Manhattan hedge fund, QVT, where he worked as an analyst—while, true to his machine reputation, simultaneously attending and graduating from Yale Law. “A genius,” says Raymond Schinazi, the founder of several biotech firms whom the young analyst befriended after buying up shares in his company Pharmasset. “I learned a lot from him about investing.”

To Ramaswamy, returns trumped mission, fundamentals or anything else. Schinazi recalls asking him about one of his other investments, Inhibitex, and its experimental hepatitis C drug, which Schinazi termed “garbage.” Ramaswamy’s response, as Schinazi remembers it: “It doesn’t matter. The perception is that the stock will do well. We know the company is toxic. We know the company is not perfect. But we are making money. That is what’s most important.” Ramaswamy denies saying this and notes that Pharmasset competed with Inhibitex. But Inhibitex did turn out to be toxic: Bristol Myers Squibb bought it for over $2 billion in 2011, then quickly wrote it off after a disastrous clinical trial.

At 28, Ramaswamy struck out on his own, with $100 million in backing from his former employer and others. He named his firm Roivant Sciences—as in ROI. His thesis: Pharma giants had plenty of abandoned drugs that could be worth a fortune if someone focused on them. At its core, it wasn’t about creating anything, but rather unlocking the value of what had already been created.

“He had dinner after work almost every evening with a CEO [or] somebody important,” recalls a former high-level Roivant employee. “What Vivek realized is there’s a very small number of stakeholders in the world of pharma who control very, very large sums of money, and so for relatively few conversations, you can move a lot of money and do a lot of business.”

He also outworked just about everyone. “The dude put in 100 hours a week for a decade to build Roivant—that’s not normal,” says Janak Joshi, a health care entrepreneur who knows him.

One year after founding Roivant, the newly married 29-year-old canceled his honeymoon and brought his wife to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange celebrating the 2015 public offering of Axovant, one of Roivant’s spinoffs. Its prized asset was an Alzheimer’s drug candidate with a lot of hype—and four failed clinical trials—that he’d bought for $5 million. Already the largest biotech listing ever, Axovant was worth nearly $3 billion by the end of its first day of trading.

Two years later, Ramaswamy secured a $1.1 billion investment for Roivant led by SoftBank, promising to bring tech wizardry and artificial intelligence to clinical trials through a new subsidiary, Datavant. A month later, Axovant’s Alzheimer’s drug failed its fifth trial, cratering the stock. (It’s now worth less than $30 million and is being liquidated.)

“Increasing the value of Roivant was the corporate strategy,” recalls one former manager in its technology division. “Drugs happened to be a way to do it.” In 2019, Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo paid $3 billion for five of Roivant’s subsidiaries, access to Roivant’s drug discovery technologies and an 11% stake in Roivant at a $9 billion valuation. Taking some cash off the table, Ramaswamy pocketed about $140 million after tax from that transaction, with the rest of his Roivant holdings making up the bulk of his net worth.

The FDA did eventually approve five of Roivant’s drugs during Ramaswamy’s tenure, which he is quick to point out in stump speeches, but the company has never turned a profit, and it lost $1 billion on $61 million in revenue last year.

D0nald Trump campaigns like Donald Trump operates in business: simple messaging repeated constantly, truth be damned; a fanatic obsession with imagery; and a desire to use other people’s money, no matter how big your own pile.

Vivek Ramaswamy campaigns like Vivek Ramaswamy. First, there’s that energy. He’s nonstop, spending nearly all his days and nights with voters and wooing them like he did investors. In this, he channels Bill Clinton. “Vivek is really good at making it seem like he cares about what you’re saying,” says a former Roivant employee who worked under Ramaswamy for years. “He’s very good at being present, making you feel you’re being listened to.” When he’s not speaking to crowds of voters, he’s arguing with cable news hosts, or briefing journalists on his campaign bus or private plane, or appearing on podcasts, or recording episodes for his own podcast, The Vivek Show, or crafting provocative tweets, or filming videos of himself soliloquizing, or huddling with advisors to discuss what’s next.

The youthful pace, in an election that seems headed toward a face-off between two people born in the 1940s, comes paired with a youthful style, rapping to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and playing tennis with social media influencer Jake Paul. “I’ll tell you what’s going on with our generation, us Millennials and people younger than me,” preaches the Indian-American vegetarian to a group of mostly white Iowa Republican bigwigs chowing on cheeseburgers at the Polk GOP Summer Sizzle outside Des Moines. “We are so hungry for cause; we’re so starved for purpose.”

That energy translates into political ROI. Every media hit, every viral moment, every impression—they’re all investments Ramaswamy makes in his own political capital. His rate of return grows with each Google search and new social media follower: He has hit 1.3 million on X (formerly Twitter), a fivefold bump since he declared his candidacy in February, and 640,000 on Instagram, a whopping 25-fold boost, per tracking site Social Blade.

He understands that pushing boundaries gets attention. From atop a wooden porch in a backyard in Amherst, New Hampshire, he declares, “I am against birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants,” before adding “I go a step further,” proposing that U.S. citizens must pass a civics test to vote—a provocative and likely unconstitutional proposition. To a packed buffet crowd in Newton, Iowa, he proclaims, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know Elon Musk better recently [and] I expect him to be an interesting adviser of mine,” before praising Musk for cutting 75% of Twitter’s workforce. The result: a fresh wave of online news stories, and two days later, Musk endorses Ramaswamy for the vice-presidential slot.

Few saw Ramaswamy’s 2024 campaign coming, including Ramaswamy. “I can confirm that I will not be running for dog catcher, president or senator,” he said onstage at the Forbes/Shook Top Financial Advisors Summit last October, sitting alongside former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hinted that he himself might run. “I’m glad to hear it,” Ramaswamy responded.

He started dabbling in politics only in 2020. After facing backlash at Roivant for initially refusing to speak out in support of Black Lives Matter protests, he began penning opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal decrying CEOs who push social justice agendas and big tech’s censorship of Donald Trump following the January 6 riot. A television natural, he began appearing regularly on Fox News. “My interests started to slowly, gradually expand,” he tells Forbes.

“I’m sure he’s running for president because he thinks he’s going to be a great president, but it must have crossed his mind too that it’s not going to hurt his brand or Strive’s value.” 

That set into motion what became not only the subject of his New York Times bestseller, Woke Inc., and two sequels, but his political platform. In the book, which came out just months after he stepped down as Roivant’s CEO, he dissected corporate America’s hypocrisies, such as the way companies and their “managerial classes” pretend to care about environmental and social justice issues to distract from their own shortcomings. In Ramaswamy’s mind, all businesses should return to the Milton Friedman doctrine: Prioritize profits and shareholders, and let the rest take care of itself. “I process a lot of my own thinking through writing,” he says.

In Strive, he has married his business and political interests. Founded in January 2022, the company, which sells exchange-traded funds to investors, holds that ROI can be driven by forsaking ESG principles that may undermine shareholder value. Exxon-Mobil good, Disney bad, and investment firms that don’t understand that are extra bad. “I built my asset management firm Strive to compete against the likes of BlackRock and State Street and Vanguard by standing up to the ESG cartel,” he tells the Iowa buffet diners.

“Vivek, at the end of the day, is a salesman,” says one former Roivant employee. Voters concur. “You’ve got me jazzed up,” says a 61-year-old diner named Keith. “You’re a salesman!”

There’s a downside, of course, to seeing everything through an ROI prism—in politics, to telling your audience exactly what they want to hear: Sometimes it conflicts with what you stand for. A candidate for inclusion in Profiles in Courage Ramaswamy is not.

Go back to June 2020, during the tumult of the early pandemic and protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. As CEO of Roivant he made Juneteenth an annual company holiday and praised it as an “important milestone” in U.S. history. But as a presidential candidate he has deemed Juneteenth “useless,” prompting a fresh round of headlines.

Back at Roivant, he enjoyed a good working relationship with the FDA. When Covid-19 broke out, Ramaswamy had a direct line to FDA officials to discuss a treatment Roivant was developing, according to David Mitchell, Roivant’s former head of regulatory affairs. But in Iowa, he blasts pharma as “a corrupt disaster” and labels the FDA “corrupt.” “Vivek is a smart businessman and is not going to make enemies of those regulating him,” says Tricia McLaughlin, a spokesperson for Ramaswamy’s campaign.

He writes in Woke, Inc. that he “consider[s] [himself] to be an environmentalist” and that he “care[s] a lot about the quality of the air people breathe,” but as a presidential candidate he extols the virtues of coal and says the “climate change agenda” is a “hoax.”

And an Ivy League princeling whom so many tout as a genius has begun to languish in the QAnon conspiracy sewer, including hinting that 9/11 was an inside job. (Ramaswamy later denied having said so, but a tape then emerged showing that he had.) When a New Hampshire woman asked him what he would do about the “growing rampant pedophilia” and “perverts raping our children,” Ramaswamy, without missing a beat, expressed his gratitude to Sound of Freedom, a movie about child sex trafficking that QAnon adherents have embraced, earning him a boisterous round of applause.

“The Vivek I thought I knew is not the public persona we see today,” says Donald Berwick, who helped the Obama administration oversee Medicare and Medicaid and served on Roivant’s advisory board for more than two years. “The rhetoric and conversations we pursued were about acting in a socially responsible way. Either he changed his tune, or he always believed what he now says.”

Unlike Trump, Ramaswamy is willing to finance his own campaign; he has put in $16 million so far. It’s almost all booked as a campaign loan, but even as he has stepped back from the day-to-day operations of his businesses, it could also be seen as a marketing expense—and a good one at that. In the year since he sat on the Forbes stage and said he wasn’t running for anything, Roivant’s stock price has more than doubled. Strive has roughly doubled to over $1 billion in assets under management, making it one of the fastest-growing small funds in America.

“I’m sure he’s running for president because he thinks he’s going to be a great president,” says Don Fox, the former general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, “but it must have crossed his mind too that it’s not going to hurt his brand or Strive’s value.” McLaughlin, the political flack, terms this notion “moronic.” Frericks, the Strive cofounder, is more realistic: “I do think he can expand the customer base” by running for president.

Meanwhile, many of the firm’s backers are also supporting his campaign. “Strive was an unusual thing, and I wanted to support Vivek,” says Schinazi, also an investor. “For me, it’s about friendship. It’s not about ‘is it a good investment?’ I’m not going to lose money with Vivek. I never have.”

When it comes to this race, Ramaswamy seems the only sure winner. Barring a Trump withdrawal, he won’t be the nominee next year. But on the political front, he’s positioning himself to be taken seriously in four years. On the influence front, he has become extremely famous, which will lead to yet more speeches and awards and books and television hits. And with Strive, he has figured a way to deliver himself both returns and renown. That’s a pretty solid ROI—with a whole lot of options ahead.


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Smoke and mirrors: I’ve been debating Vivek Ramaswamy for 2 years. Here’s how I got past his diversionary tactics

As the great illusionist Harry Houdini once said, “The secret of showmanship consists not of what you really do, but what the mystery-loving public thinks you do.” Entrepreneurial huckster Vivek Ramaswamy has graduated from being the court jester of corporate governance to now becoming a serious contender for the GOP presidential nomination as some 5% of primary Republican voters indicate they are entertained by his antics.

As one of the few people who have debated Ramaswamy in multiple public appearances and studied the reality of his business resume, I have repeatedly cleared the diversionary smoke he deploys by revealing the reality of his pump-and-dump business playbook. Now Ramaswamy seems to have retrofitted it for politics.

I always knew that Ramaswamy would excel on the debate stage by running circles around his more experienced rivals who are more likely to be grounded by facts and dignity. Attention-seeking is core to the Ramaswamy playbook. He thrives on it–whether that attention is positive or negative.

Two years ago, Ramaswamy, as a Harvard College and Yale Law School alumnus, desperately begged me through mutual friends to debate him on campus in a bid to promote his book attacking business ESG practices. Even then, he indicated a smoldering interest in running for president on the GOP ticket, according to emails I possess, by exploiting his anti-woke branding.

He claimed he was drawn to me based upon three back-to-back pieces I had recently written in defense of corporate leaders who took courageous positions on corporate social impact, showing that doing well for shareholders doesn’t have to come at the expense of doing good for society. In fact, I demonstrated how social harmony was important to fortify the trust needed for free markets to thrive.

He wanted to debate, and I declined. However, I could not avoid him for long as he charmed his way onto cable TV, and a year later, as a CNBC contributor, I had my first on-air live debate with him. The fiery debate ignited viral Twitter reviews. Angry MAGA sympathizers were thrilled by his pugnaciousness–and CEOs were relieved that someone knew how to respond to him. Off stage, he was charming and gracious. In email and Twitter exchanges, he was provocative, trying to bait me into endless fights.

He succeeded in doing so at a different forum a year later–last December, before the National Association of Attorneys General. At the time, he was still honing his debate technique: Make an outrageous claim (the injustice of the SEC following any EPA guidelines on toxic emissions), find an irrelevant point where it could apply (one arcane trace chemical where the rulemaking might need revision), and then recast that into condemnation of all regulation. If you go down that rabbit hole with him, you’re trapped–unless you are an expert chemist who is prepared to give the full context.

Just this weekend, he employed this technique with CNN’s Dana Bash who skillfully led him to label as “a fringe comment” his own shameful attack on a Black congressional leader. When Bash asked him about his claim that scientifically well-documented climate change is a hoax, he said that the same people who warn us of global warming used to warn of a coming ice age–as if they were now contradicting themselves.

Of course, that is nonsense as a future ice age would be one of the results of global warming melting polar ice caps, as NASA has confirmed. Then, Bash had to go into a break, leaving Ramaswamy’s smug gotcha reply–and misinformation–unchallenged.

Last year, Ramaswamy penned an anti-woke screed in the Economist in response to my own Economist article on corporate social impact, while actively pitching media with ridiculous attacks on the 1,000+ companies that exited Russia, which I helped encourage since the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as snipping away at me unprovoked on Twitter.

Earlier this year, after I exposed his shady business track record of brazen pump-and-dump schemes, his campaign staff bizarrely threatened me by email, over the phone, and in Twitter taunts, interspersed with provably false claims. Here’s what the facts show about Ramaswamy’s business record, as we earlier exposed, and which Ramaswamy inadvertently confirmed to us, revealing his talents as an illusionist.

Ramaswamy’s tax records show that the first time he ever made big money was when he hyped up an Alzheimer’s drug candidate, Axovant, which had been discarded by other pharmaceutical companies. Axovant, which was 78% owned by Ramaswamy’s corporate holding company Roivant, blew up after failing FDA tests, with the stock crashing from $200 to 40 cents, fleecing thousands of mom-and-pop investors who bought into the hype. Ramaswamy himself profited handsomely (even if the Ramaswamy campaign took a while to acknowledge the truth).

Ramaswamy spokesperson Tricia McLaughlin first told us that “the idea that Vivek made any money on [Axovant’s] failure is a total lie” before finally acknowledging that Ramaswamy did indeed cash out, claiming “[Ramaswamy] and other shareholders were forced to sell a tiny portion of their shares in 2015 to facilitate an outside investor entering Roivant.” The facts are that Ramaswamy’s own tax returns show he opportunely sold out of nearly $40 million of Roivant stock right as Axovant’s hype was peaking. Meanwhile, Roivant was raising $500 million driven largely by Axovant. As Ramaswamy was busy selling his own personal stake, Roivant gradually reduced and diluted its Axovant stake from 78% to just 25%.

Clearly, the facts show Ramaswamy’s words did not match his actions as he was busy cashing out while shamelessly hyping Axovant’s prospects in media interviews–almost resembling a classic pump-and-dump scheme. Some $40 million in personal windfalls is hardly “tiny.” Ramaswamy was not “forced to sell” as that was clearly a personal choice without anyone holding a gun to his head. Amazingly, Ramaswamy’s spokesperson further confirmed to us that Ramaswamy was aware that 99.7% of all drugs tested for Alzheimer’s fail even though he was relentlessly hyping Axovant’s chances of success with nary a mention of that inconvenient truth.

Similarly, in 2020, Ramaswamy reduced his stake in Roivant Sciences, with his tax returns showing he made nearly $200 million in a sweet deal with Sumitomo right before the company’s valuation shrank fivefold after its SPAC-driven public listing. Meanwhile, Ramaswamy’s pharma companies are behaving like patent trolls, persistently suing both Pfizer and Moderna and weirdly claiming ownership of their mRNA COVID vaccines. Ramaswamy’s campaign claims that Ramaswamy has helped develop countless new drugs, but Roivant’s own SEC filings show the company has only ever commercialized one drug, the obscure skincare drug VTAMA.

Ramaswamy’s most lucrative stock investments when he was working for QVT Investments, including Pharmasset and Inhibitex, shared the same underlying attributes of improbably spectacular timing, buying into the stocks ahead of mergers.

It is noteworthy that convicted “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli  who first came to prominence by jacking up the price of a life-saving  62-year-old drug frequently used by HIV and malaria patients by more than 5000% before going to prison for securities fraud has called Ramaswamy “a friend” and one of his “biggest investors.” (The presidential hopeful says it was during his tenure as an investment analyst at QVT Financial.)

Ramaswamy’s other business, Strive Asset Management, is even more of an illusion. Its assets under management have stagnated as the company is reduced to begging for consulting contracts from politicos in state governments, an obvious conflict of interest given Ramaswamy’s political activities. Strive has some of the highest fees of any of its peers and is now facing multiple lawsuits from former employees who say they were aggressively pressured into violating securities laws and that Ramaswamy routinely exaggerated his company’s abilities.

Interestingly while he attacks ESG hiring priorities in the name of meritocracy, he happily staffs his enterprise leadership ranks through cronyism (hiring his high-school pal as president of one firm) and nepotism (hiring his brother and mother to help lead another firm).

Claiming he “didn’t have the money” to afford law school, Ramaswamy benefited from a Soros Fellowship. However, his tax returns show he was apparently earning several million dollars as an investment analyst while simultaneously being a full-time student–before reportedly paying a Wikipedia editor to delete any reference to Soros.

Similarly, Ramaswamy has bragged about building a successful multi-million dollar business when he was still an undergraduate in college while moonlighting as a lyric-belting Eminem-knock-off rapper. However, his tax returns show that he apparently sold that company for merely a few thousand dollars.

This opportunistic, dual Ivy-Leaguer with well-educated professional parents was so desperate to be recast as a populist that he sued the Davos World Economic Forum to purge him from the participant lists.

After CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins revealed the falsehood of his denials of disgraceful statements implying 9/11 was an inside job, he called her “a petulant teenager.”

Obviously, he can’t handle the truth. Hopefully, Ramaswamy’s GOP rivals and political reporters can avoid his diversionary maneuvers–and focus on the truth.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is the Lester Crown Professor in Management Practice at Yale School of Management. He was named “Management Professor of the Year” by Poets & Quants magazine.

The opinions expressed in commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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Indian-American presidential aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy pitches for stronger U.S.-India relationship

Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has called for stronger relationships with India, South Korea and Japan to reduce U.S.’ economic dependence on China and Taiwan.

Mr. Ramaswamy, 38, whose poll numbers have surged following the maiden Republican presidential primary debate last week, spelt out his plans and foreign policy views on August 29.

He attacked another Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who had slammed him for his inexperience on foreign policy issues.

“We will enter a stronger partnership with India that involves an Indian commitment to close the Malacca Strait in the event of a near-term conflict with Taiwan, and enter stronger partnerships with other allies including South Korea and Japan to reduce our economic dependence on China and Taiwan,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

The entrepreneur-turned-politician said he favours strategic clarity and advocated that the U.S. must defend Taiwan vigorously until America achieves semiconductor independence, then resume the posture of strategic ambiguity when the stakes are lower for the U.S..

“The American way of life depends on leading-edge semiconductors manufactured in Taiwan, and we can’t risk China gaining near-total leverage over the entire U.S. economy,” he said.

“By saying that we will defend Taiwan, the U.S. can strongly deter China from blockading or invading the island in the near term. Meantime, Taiwan should more than double its own military expenditures to a more rational level of 4% to 5% of its gross domestic product,” he said.

He said the U.S. should rapidly arm and train Taiwan with Anti-Access/Area Denial weapons while running at least one Destroyer warship through the Taiwan Strait each week.

The U.S. should also fortify its own homeland defence, which is at present dangerously vulnerable to major conflicts with China, he said, adding this includes improving nuclear, super electromagnetic pulse, cyber and space defence capabilities.

His campaign said that Mr. Ramaswamy is the only U.S. Presidential candidate to date who has clearly stated that the U.S. will defend Taiwan.

“I am the only Presidential candidate willing to state what is necessary: we will defend Taiwan. The U.S. currently doesn’t even recognise Taiwan as a nation. Democrats and Republicans both unquestioningly endorse the ‘one China’ policy and embrace “strategic ambiguity” toward the island,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

Hitting out at Ms. Haley, Mr. Ramaswamy’s campaign in a statement said that in a desperate attempt to raise funds for her languishing establishment campaign, the former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. was intentionally lying about Mr. Ramaswamy.

Ms. Haley has blasted Mr. Ramaswamy for not backing U.S. allies.

According to his campaign, Ms. Haley flatly lied on Fox News that “Mr. Ramaswamy said he would abandon Israel, those were his words” and that “he wants to go and stop funding Israel”. “This is false,” his campaign asserted in a late-night statement.

“We challenge the failing Ms. Haley campaign and any media outlet to find a single instance where Ramaswamy utters that he would not support Israel. They will not – because Ramaswamy never said it. Instead, they continue to recycle blatantly false headlines that they manufactured,” the statement said.

Mr. Ramaswamy said that if Israel ever gets to the point that it no longer needs U.S. financial support, that would be a mark of achievement – but that the U.S. will never cut off aid to Israel until Israel says they are ready for it, his campaign said.

It all started about a week ago when Ms. Haley at the debate stage accused Mr. Ramaswamy of not having any foreign policy experience.

Since then the Ohio-based Indian-American has been attacked both by the media and his political opponents for his inexperience on foreign policy.

On Tuesday, Mr. Ramaswamy used the ‘Namrata Randhawa’ name of Nikki Ms. Haley on his website.

“I’m not going to get involved in these childish name games. It’s pretty pathetic. First of all, I was born with Nikki on my birth certificate. I was raised as Nikki. I married a Ms. Haley. And so that is what my name is.

“So he can say or misspell or do whatever he wants, but he can’t step away from the fact that, he’s the one that said he was going to abandon Israel,” Ms. Haley told Fox News in response.

“Those were his words. Now he’s wanting to walk it back. And the reality is, you have to understand the importance of our allies and those relationships. We can never be so narcissistic to think that we don’t need friends,” she said.

It is not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel too, Ms. Haley said.

“Israel faces genocidal threats from Hamas, from Hezbollah, from Iran, from Syria. You need a president that understands that that understands that Israel is the front line of defence when it comes to us dealing with Islamic terrorism in Iran,” she claimed.

“And he just doesn’t get it. So, look, I mean, I think you can tell a lot about the kind of leader someone will be based on how they run their campaign. And he’s doing that all on his own,” Ms. Haley said.

Later in the night, Mr. Ramaswamy’s campaign issued a statement against Ms. Haley.

“We wish Ambassador Haley and her family well in their future careers in the private sector, noting that they rapidly generated an impressive fortune as military contractors following her short-lived stint as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations,” the campaign said.

Mr. Ramaswamy said the U.S. relationship with Israel is a model example of how international relationships should work.

Israel spends a greater percentage of its own GDP on defence than any major nation. 70% of the aid the U.S. provides to Israel must be spent in the U.S., and by 2028 the mandate is 100%. This is consistent with ‘America-First’ foreign policy objectives, he said.

“By the end of my first term, our relationship with Israel will be stronger than it has ever been. I will consummate Abraham Accords 2.0 by the end of 2025, adding Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Indonesia to the pact. We will work with Israel to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon that advances U.S. interests,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

“I won’t end our aid to Israel until the day when Israel tells the U.S. they are ready for it. That’s what true friends do: they speak honestly and openly to one another. I will speak to Bibi and invite him to the White House, something that President Biden is shamefully frightened to do,” he said.

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Morning Digest | India lodges ‘strong protest’ with China over new map; Pragyan rover confirms sulphur at Moon’s south pole, and more

Rollout of rover of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 from the lander to the lunar surface, as observed by Lander Imager Camera. File.
| Photo Credit: PTI

India protests China’s map claiming Indian territory, MEA says it ‘complicates’ border resolution

India has lodged a “strong protest” with China over the publication of a new map that was released by the Chinese government on August 28, showing all of Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin, and other parts of Indian territory within its borders, that External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar called “absurd claims”. The map, that has in the past claimed Indian territories as well, was published just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and discussed resolving the boundary situation. 

Pragyan rover confirms sulphur at moon’s south pole, searching for hydrogen

Chandrayaan-3’s Pragyan rover has confirmed the presence of sulphur on the moon’s surface, near its south pole, and is still searching for hydrogen, the Indian Space Research Organisation said. The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-3’s rover has made the first-ever in-situ measurements on the elemental composition of the lunar surface near the south pole.

India to export rice to Singapore despite curbs, says External Affairs Ministry

India will allow export of rice to Singapore despite restrictions on export of the product. The announcement from the Ministry of External Affairs came as the authorities cited the special relationship between India and Singapore as the reason for this exemption. India had imposed restrictions on export of non-Basmati rice but subsequently, curbs were imposed on Basmati rice as well.

NHRC notice to Uttar Pradesh for attack on Muslim student in private school

Days after a video showing a teacher of a private school in Muzaffarnagar asking Hindu students of her class to beat a Muslim student went viral and sparked nationwide outrage, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government seeking a detailed report on the matter. The commission quoted media reports of the victim’s family saying that he was beaten up for a mistake in the multiplication of tables during the class. The reports also stated that the teacher, who also owns the school, has not been arrested yet.

Gyanvapi mosque | Fresh plea in court to order ASI survey inside Wazukhana

One of the Hindu petitioners in the Gyanvapi mosque worship rights suit has filed a fresh application in the court of Varanasi District Judge pleading for directions to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to undertake a survey of the Wazukhana area of the mosque (except for the Shiva Linga) without causing any damage to the structure. This main suit seeking worship rights at the mosque was filed in the same court by four Hindu women worshippers.

Rahul Gandhi’s Europe trip to coincide with G-20 meeting in New Delhi

At the time when India will host the heads of the government of G-20 countries, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will be visiting Europe and will interact with European Union lawmakers. He will also address students at a university in Paris. Mr. Gandhi is likely to leave for Paris in the first week of September for a five-day tour and will meet with European Union members in Brussels on September 7. During the visit, organised Indian Overseas Congress, Mr. Gandhi will address the Indian diaspora at an event in Oslo in early September, a party insider told the The Hindu.

Will cooperate with Bengal Government on what it does, not whatever it does: Governor Anand Bose

West Bengal Governor C.V. Ananda Bose has said that he would always cooperate with the State Government but that support may not extend to “whatever it does”. Mr. Bose, in his free-wheeling interview said, “As the Governor, I will cooperate with the [State] government on what it does, not whatever it does.” “Each should play their role within their turf. Everyone has a ‘Lakshman Rekha’. Don’t cross the ‘Lakshman Rekha’. And most importantly, don’t try to draw the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ for the other. That is the spirit of cooperative federalism,” the Governor said.

Nitish Kumar predicts early Lok Sabha polls, stresses Opposition unity

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has predicted early Lok Sabha polls, due in 2024. He called for Opposition unity as a priority so that the BJP could be defeated. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) supremo reiterated that he had no personal desire to hold any post in the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) Opposition grouping.

Army signs deals for 130 tethered drones and 19 tank driving simulators

The Army has signed contracts for the procurement of 130 tethered drones and 19 tank-driving simulators under Emergency Procurement (EP) and they will be delivered in 12 months. The armed forces are currently executing the fourth tranche of EPs sanctioned by the Defence Ministry. In the last few months, the Army has issued several tenders for a range of drones and technologies including logistics, load-carrying drones, anti-drone systems, and loitering munitions, among others.

Keralites hark back to a utopian pastoral past as they celebrate Onam worldwide

Keralites continued to celebrate Thiru Onam, a festival monumentalising a utopian, egalitarian, non-discriminatory pastoral past that primarily existed in myth and imagination, with family feasts, floral decorations, fireworks, new clothes, group games and exchange of gifts, on Monday and Tuesday. Founded on a fable, Onam has evolved over the years as a secular national festival for Keralites. It has become a cultural holiday for Malayalis, regardless of their religious backgrounds

Air pollution now a major risk to life expectancy in South Asia: Study

Rising air pollution can cut life expectancy by more than five years per person in South Asia, one of the world’s most polluted regions, according to a report which flagged the growing burden of hazardous air on health. India is responsible for about 59% of the world’s increase in pollution since 2013, the report said, as hazardous air threatens to shorten lives further in some of the country’s more polluted regions. In the densely populated New Delhi, the world’s most polluted mega-city, the average life span is down by more than 10 years.

Prannoy achieves career-high world ranking of No. 6, Sindhu jumps to No 14

On a high after his maiden World Championship bronze medal, Indian shuttler H.S. Prannoy soared to career-high world ranking of No 6 in the latest BWF rankings published on Tuesday. The 31-year-old Kerala shuttler, who eliminated world Number 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen en route to his maiden World Championships bronze, rose three spots with 72437 points in his kitty. He is also the only Indian shuttler, who has maintained a top-10 rank since December last year.

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Stronger U.S.-India relationship could help America declare ‘independence’ from China: Vivek Ramaswamy

A stronger relationship with India would help the U.S. declare its “independence” from China, Indian-American Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy believes and has called for stronger strategic ties with New Delhi, including a military relationship in the Andaman Sea.

At 38, Mr. Ramaswamy is the youngest Republican presidential candidate ever. He is currently on a two-day swing to the crucial State of Iowa. On January 15, Iowa would kick off the 2024 Republican presidential primary season.

“A stronger U.S.-India relationship could help the U.S. declare independence from China. The U.S. is economically dependent on China today, but with a stronger relationship with India, it becomes easier to declare independence from that Chinese relationship,” Mr. Ramaswamy told PTI in an interview.

A second-generation Indian-American, Mr. Ramaswamy founded Roivant Sciences in 2014 and led the largest biotech IPOs of 2015 and 2016, eventually culminating in successful clinical trials in multiple disease areas that led to FDA-approved products, according to his bio.

Also Read | Vivek Ramaswamy’s popularity surges with impressive fundraising post-Presidential primary debate

“The U.S. should also have a stronger strategic relationship with India, including even a military relationship in the Andaman Sea. Knowing that India, if necessary, could block the Malacca Strait where actually China gets most of its Middle Eastern oil supplies. So, these are areas for real improvement in the U.S.-India relationship.

“I think that would be good for the U.S. and that’s exactly why I would lead accordingly,” Mr. Ramaswamy, a multimillionaire biotech entrepreneur-turned-politician, said in response to a question.

His polling numbers have gone up after the maiden presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 23.

On the firing line of most of the Republican presidential nominees, in particular former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley; Mr. Ramaswamy has suddenly gone up the ladder in polling numbers and in many polls, he is placed second after former president Donald Trump.

In his first interaction with the Indian media, Mr. Ramaswamy appeared to be a strong supporter of the growing India-U.S. relationship, which has been a hallmark of multiple presidential administrations across the political aisle since the start of the Bill Clinton Administration.

“I think he [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] has been a good leader for India, and I look forward to working with him on building the U.S.-India relationship further,” Mr. Ramaswamy said in response to a question.

During the first Republican presidential debate, his fellow Indian-American challenger Haley told him that he had no foreign policy experience. But Mr. Ramaswamy has developed his own vision of America’s foreign policy.

“The major challenge of U.S. foreign policy is that we’re not protecting the homeland. We’re fighting wars that don’t advance American interests while leaving the homeland actually vulnerable. So I think it’s a mistake for the U.S. to continue engagement in Ukraine. That doesn’t advance U.S. national interest,” he said.

“To the contrary, I think it actually is going to impede U.S. credibility on the global stage. The U.S. needs to focus on Communist China. That’s the top threat abroad. And protecting the homeland has to be the top priority at home with actual defence capabilities of the border,” he argued.

“From nuclear defence, from nuclear missile capabilities, super EMP, electromagnetic pulse strikes, cyber-attacks, that’s where we need to focus our attention and then make sure that we’re no longer dependent on our true enemy Communist China for our modern way of life. But many in the establishment of both parties have forgotten that priority; focusing too much on Ukraine instead,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, remains the biggest source of imports into the U.S. Last year, the bilateral trade hit an all-time high of $690.6 billion. U.S. imports from China reached $536.8 billion, accounting for about 17% of its total imports. Exports to China were $154 billion, 7.5% of total U.S. exports to the world, according to U.S. media reports.

American companies have huge manufacturing networks in China and rely on Chinese consumers.

Mr. Ramaswamy has two sons Karthik, three, and Arjun, one. “They’re really excited about this journey that we’re on…Karthik can say that his dad is running for president. I don’t know if he processes fully what that means. He’s only three years old. But I think they sense it’s something important,” he said when asked about his family.

“It’s a shared project as a family. They are excited whenever we travel on the campaign trail on this bus. They love this bus. But I think on a serious note, I think they know that their parents are doing something that is important and that they’re playing an important role in that. I think that means something to them. I’m grateful for that,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

When asked about the role of Indian Americans in his presidential run, Mr. Ramaswamy said: “The fact that I am the kid of immigrants who came to this country with no money and who’s gone on to live the American dream of becoming successful at a young age in the scale that I have, gives me a sense of conviction in this country, gives me a sense of certainty of what is possible in America. Because I have lived it.”

“And I do feel a sense of duty to pass that on to the next generation. So, I do think that being the kid of immigrants who came to this country in search of opportunity gives me that first personal passion for making that available to the next generation.”

Mr. Ramaswamy, if tapped as Vice President and later elected, would be the second youngest ever to serve in the role, behind John Breckinridge who served as President James Buchanan’s second in command when he was just 36.

Breckinridge served as President from 1857 to 1861.

Mr. Ramaswamy is one of the wealthiest Americans under the age of 40. He studied biology at Harvard before obtaining a law degree from Yale and was briefly a billionaire before a downturn in the stock market shrunk his wealth to just over $950 million, according to Forbes.

He was raised in the Hindu faith by his parents but went to a Catholic high school.

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How Vivek Ramaswamy Became A Billionaire

The whip-smart Republican made a pile of money in finance and biotech, enough to turn himself into one of the richest thirty-somethings in America. Unlike Donald Trump, he’s entirely self-made.

By John Hyatt, Forbes Staff

Standing in a packed New Hampshire restaurant, Vivek Ramaswamy, the fresh-faced Republican shaking up the 2024 presidential race, is making a case for unifying a bitterly divided nation. The secret, he insists, is as American as apple pie: capitalism.

“Democrats and Republicans alike, we tend to be more proud of a country when we’re all making more money in that country,” he tells 100 or so diners enjoying turkey sandwiches and diet Cokes. “We don’t have to flog ourselves for capitalism. Stop apologizing for capitalism. We should embrace capitalism.”

Ramaswamy certainly has. At 38 years old, the biotech investor and “anti-woke” warrior is worth more than $950 million. His net worth was over $1 billion about a week ago, making him one of the 20 youngest billionaires in the country, before a downturn in the market pulled him just under the billion-dollar threshold, according to Forbes’ calculations. Still, he appears to be the second-wealthiest person competing in the Republican presidential primary, behind only Donald Trump (whose net worth Forbes last pegged at $2.5 billion).

Ramawamy’s fortune stems from a drug-development company named Roivant Sciences, which went public in 2021. Its stock is up nearly 40% this year, boosting the value of Ramaswamy’s 10% stake to roughly $600 million. Since founding the company nine years ago, he has sucked over $260 million out of Roivant in the form of salary, bonuses and capital gains. He diversified those proceeds into a pretty standard investment portfolio, roughly 60% stocks and 40% bonds. But he also added some flavor, with a dash of Bitcoin and Ethereum, some shares of YouTube competitor Rumble and a stake in crypto payments firm MoonPay.

Then there are his political interests. In 2021, Ramaswamy stepped down as CEO of Roivant and got into politics, authoring a book called “Woke, Inc.,” which criticized corporate America’s growing focus on social justice issues and the ESG (environmental, social and governance) movement taking over Wall Street. A year later, he founded an “anti-woke” index fund provider—think BlackRock, without all the talk about saving the world—named Strive Asset Management. Investors recently valued Strive at a lofty $300 million or so, according to two individuals familiar with the financing, implying that Ramaswamy’s stake is worth well over $100 million.

It’s a lot of money to make in a little amount of time. The son of Indian immigrants—Ramaswamy’s father an engineer and patent attorney, his mother a psychiatrist—he attended Harvard, where he studied biology and cofounded, a website for student founders to pitch professional investors. A private charity reportedly bought the company in 2009 for an undisclosed sum.

After graduating, Ramaswamy joined the hedge fund QVT, where he specialized in pharmaceutical investments. He earned $7 million in the first seven years of his career and made partner by 28. Around the same time, he met his now-wife, Apoorva, a throat surgeon. While continuing to work, he also managed to get a degree from America’s most prestigious law school, Yale.

Ramaswamy left his job at QVT at 29 and, with the hedge fund backing him, started an investment holding company named Roivant Sciences. His thesis: Pharma giants had plenty of abandoned drugs that could be worth a fortune if someone focused on them. One year after founding the company, one of Roivant’s spinoffs, named Axovant, went public at a $2.2 billion valuation. Its prized asset: a much-hyped Alzheimer’s drug candidate, Intepirdine, which Ramaswamy had purchased for just $5 million. The year that Axovant joined the New York Stock Exchange, Ramaswamy reported more than $38 million of income, most of it from capital gains, on his tax return.

Intepirdine turned out to be a disappointment, failing a clinical trial two years later. The company rebranded as Sio Gene Therapies in 2020 and is now worth about $30 million. But Ramaswamy had other drugs, too. In 2020, Japanese pharma giant Sumitomo Dainippon paid $3 billion to acquire five of them, as well as a 10% stake in Roivant. Ramaswamy got his second big windfall that year, reporting $176 million of income on his tax return, including $174.5 million in capital gains.

Flush with cash, Ramaswamy stepped down from his company in January 2021, citing his “increasing public engagement” in a note to shareholders. He published his book seven months later and started the “anti-woke” asset management firm, Strive, around the same time. “We stand for this movement that we call ‘excellence capitalism,’ as a counterpart to stakeholder capitalism,” Ramaswamy explained on the Trillions podcast. “What excellence capitalism says is, focus exclusively on delivering excellent products and services to your customers, above all other agendas, including political and social agendas. And that’s different from stakeholder capitalism, which says you’re supposed to take into account 12 or 20 stakeholders at the same time.”

A lineup of serious investors bankrolled Strive. Mega-donor Peter Thiel, who backed other “anti-woke” ventures like Rumble, put in some money. So did hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman, who has invested heavily in the pharmaceutical industry and connected with Ramaswamy playing tennis. Joe Lonsdale, the 40-year-old cofounder of Palantir, chipped in, too.

Despite all his money and connections, Ramaswamy looks pretty comfortable doing meet-and-greet politicking in New Hampshire. It helps, he says, that he doesn’t live like a tycoon. “I don’t think we have lived a lifestyle that is radically removed from the one we grew up in.” He owns two Ohio homes worth a combined $2.5 million, less than the real estate portfolios of far-less-wealthy candidates, including Nikki Haley, Francis Suarez, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and President Joe Biden. “We don’t have giant vacation homes,” Ramaswamy says. “We see five of our neighbors’ backyards. We have good relationships with our neighbors.”

The exception, he concedes, is private air travel. He owns stakes in three private jets, which allows him to hop-scotch across the country and still make it back home to spend time with his wife and two young children in Ohio. “If we could buy time, we would buy time,” he says. “And that’s the only thing private aviation buys us. Time with family.”

Voters seem to recognize that Ramaswamy inhabits a different stratosphere. In Milford, an older woman thanked him for visiting “us cow-town people” in New Hampshire. “Oh c’mon,” the billionaire presidential candidate responded, looking a little embarrassed. “I’m one of you.”

He’s not, of course. Which is part of the appeal.


MORE FROM FORBESHere’s How Much Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Is WorthMORE FROM FORBESHere’s How Much Joe Biden Is WorthMORE FROM FORBESHere’s How Much 2024 Presidential Candidate Asa Hutchinson Is WorthMORE FROM FORBESHow Nikki Haley Built An $8 Million Fortune (And Helped Bail Out Her Parents)MORE FROM FORBESHow 2024 Presidential Candidate Francis Suarez Built A $6 Million Fortune

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ChatGPT Writes Stunningly Awful Megan McArdle Column … Wait, No, It’s The Real Megan McArdle

There are bad political opinion columns. (We have written a few ourselves!) Then there is whatever the hell this is from the Washington Post’s Megan McArdle. Is this an early contender for worst column you will read about a candidate during our interminable presidential campaign season? It’s early, but yes.

Seriously. Our eyes are bleeding. She’s Peggy Noonan without style.

Lord, the things we read for you people. You’re welcome.


Vivek Ramaswamy is emerging into the spotlight. His poll numbers are still pretty low, not even 4 percent, but they are rising at a brisk clip, which is more than anyone else in the Republican presidential field except former president Donald Trump can say.

That link goes to a poll tracker from Real Clear Politics. Ramaswamy is that second green line (WHY, Real Clear Politics?), the one in the lower right corner:

Screenshot: Real Clear Politics

Ramaswamy’s polling average actually dropped by four-tenths of a percent this past week while McArdle was writing this column. And when you start out at 3.3 percent, four-tenths is a good-sized drop.

If you’re going to take these averages this seriously nine months before voting starts, at least describe them somewhere in the universe of accurately.

So far, Ramaswamy’s rise is broadly in keeping with the historical GOP tradition of regularly catapulting some long-shot primary candidate into his 15 minutes of fame — and then out again onto the rubber-chicken-dinner circuit.

Here we have the pundit’s self-fulfilling prophecy: The obscure candidate is rising (again, not according to the polls) because the nation’s bored political opinion columnists are writing columns in the nation’s most widely read newspapers telling you he’s rising. All this means is that whatever consultants Ramaswamy is overpaying to get him some earned media are actually doing their job.

It’s fair to wonder because, eight years on, no one understands exactly what made Trump different from predecessors such as Herman Cain. I have a theory and so do you, but no one can say for sure.

Sure we can. Trump had already been a national celebrity for 40 years, he was a genius at saying outrageous horseshit that kept the media’s attention on him, he had personal relationships with the president and owner of the nation’s most-watched 24-hour news network that he leveraged into hours upon hours upon hours of free media. Herman Cain was a Black man with a business career consisting mostly of running a sixth-rate national pizza chain who was trying to break through with a GOP base composed of suburban white people who think the 1964 Civil Rights Act is one of America’s greatest historical tragedies. Also he had all the personality and on-camera charisma of soggy Cheerios. This isn’t hard.

But if such a plan can work, Ramaswamy is the candidate most likely to execute it successfully. Imagine a Trump Scale running from 1 to 100, where 100 is Trump and 1 is a soft-spoken social worker who has been happily married to the same man for 43 years. Ramaswamy is about a 63, by far the closest match in the current primary field.

What … what even is this? You can’t just make up some sort of numerical scale to try and capture unquantifiable properties and then awkwardly shoehorn them into some sort of supporting evidence for your thesis. What if we said “Imagine a Christopher Rufo Dumbass Wingnut Scale where 100 is Christopher Rufo and 1 is an angry suburban dentist writing a Substack with fewer subscribers than Colonoscopy Monthly. Megan McArdle is about a 63, by far the closest match in the field.”

That would make zero sense, right? Also we’d rank Megan “Train Six-Year-Olds to Rush School Shooters” McArdle much closer to 100 if we were inclined to make up such a scale. Which we are not.

Ramaswamy’s fortune allows him to self-fund and puts him beyond economic sanction — and he has used that advantage to raise a giant middle finger to the liberal thinkers of the professional managerial class.

Most of the current Republican Party claims to be raising a giant middle finger to the liberal thinkers of the sneeringly dubbed professional managerial class. Ramaswamy is no more unusual in this regard than, like, this lunatic.

Also would it surprise you to learn that McArdle follows up this point by complimenting Ramaswamy for making Don Lemon mad during an early-morning interview that most of CNN’s audience probably has on as background noise while they’re trying to get the kids off to school? That’s not a feat akin to raising a middle finger at the professional managerial class, that’s just Tuesday.

Let Ramaswamy insult a moderator at a primetime debate badly enough that people are still talking about it eight years later and get back to us.

If he has a shot, it will be because he hits many of the same notes while remaining a little more upbeat, a lot more in command of policy details and even, occasionally, something of an old-fashioned market conservative.

Totally. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about beating Donald Trump, it is that his fans care deeply about his command of policy details.

Also, remain upbeat? The current second place candidate in that polling average chart McArdle linked to earlier is Ron DeSantis, who is about as charming and upbeat as one of those mutant fish that live at the bottom of the Marianas Trench and go their entire lives without ever seeing light. And he’s ahead of Ramaswamy by almost 20 points.

He suggests we might curb the excesses of woke capital with an even stricter version of shareholder capitalism that forces companies to focus on profit — a solution a lot of CEOs might also prefer.

Woke capital is a nonsense term that we should not even indulge. But in the context in which the right wing uses it, plenty of companies manage to be extremely profitable while also remaining “woke” – that is, by embracing diversity in hiring and in their customer bases or by being environmentally conscious or whatever. You would think a libertarian would understand the whole concept of maximizing profits by maximizing your customer base. Hell, you’d think a seven-year-old understands that concept.

Of course companies can’t help it if conservatives are whiny piss babies who don’t want to share their shitty beer or their cheap, made-by-Indonesian-slave-labor T-shirts with gay people or transgender Instagram influencers. Fine. More Bud Light and knockoff Batman tees for Target’s customers who are not judgmental assholes.

Nor could he resolve conflicts over social issues by directing corporations to focus on profit rather than politics. If LGBTQ+ creatives quit Disney over its storylines, that is an issue of profitability.

That’s what we just said! If McArdle already knows policing the business of “woke corporations” is a bad idea, why is she telling Ramaswamy in the previous paragraph that it might be a winning one?

Is Megan McArdle secretly a shill for Donald Trump? Don’t know, but if we were Ramaswamy’s campaign consultant, we’d tell her to stop helping.

[Washington Post]

Do your Amazon shopping through this link, because reasons.

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The Flat Circle Of Republican Stupidity

Republicans long for a past that never was, and this inevitably leads them to sound like idiots as they twist themselves into pretzels trying to rationalize their calls for societal regression. Need examples? Let’s look at some in the Sunday shows!

We’re Not Book Burning, You’re the Book Burning!

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel was on “Fox News Sunday,” and while discussing the party’s post 2022 debrief report, she said a few things that were surprisingly truthful.

MCDANIEL: […] biggest takeaway we are taking is independents did not break our way, which has to happen if we’re going to win in 2024, which usually that’s what causes that red wave. And abortion was a big issue in key states like Michigan and Pennsylvanian. […] Republicans are migrating. They are migrating to red states. […] But it means the White House electorally isn’t available to us unless we go through a purple or blue state. And those states are getting bluer, because red voters are moving to the red states. […] the path to the White House runs not just through independents, but every single Republican getting on board.

It’s pretty shocking to hear anyone in the RNC, much less its chairperson, point out an objective reality. So what different actions or rhetoric do they plan to use to better their chances in 2024? Like, for example, abortion:

MCDANIEL: […] What abortion is a bad idea to Democrats? Ninth month, eighth month, seventh month? They can’t even articulate an abortion that’s a bad idea. Gender selection, if it’s a girl, you get to abort it. Tax-funded abortions for people where it’s against their religious conscience. […]

Nothing, then. They plan on changing nothing and expecting different results. If only there was a phrase for that.

Actually, correction, they do have another political strategy: The ole’ “we’re rubber, you’re glue”!

When asked about Republican attacks on trans people, which are politically unpopular, McDaniel attempted some very strained whataboutism.

MCDANIEL: […] the Democrats are using this word book banning. […] That’s a lie. There isn’t book banning. What Republicans are doing are protecting our children and parental rights […] But it’s good to know the Democrats playbook and we’re going to push on that, especially coming from the Democrat party that is banning freedom of speech, that is canceling people, that is destroying your life if you don’t think with their orthodoxy. This is the Democrat Party who is saying if you think outside of the box and everything, we are dictating to you, you will make you lose your job, we will destroy you.

Republicans have literally been fighting Disney because it dared exercised free speech, made book banning much easier, extended Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bigotry, and threatened to separate children from parents who are not bigoted toward their trans kids. But, sure, it’s the Democrats who are “destroying anyone who doesn’t conform to orthodoxy and taking their jobs while threatening to destroy them.”

Speaking of, how’s that dirt file on fired Fox News host Tucker Carlson?

Let’s Default Our National Debt!

House Republican Whip Tom Emmer appeared on CNN’s “State of The Union” and wouldn’t directly state that his party won’t force a default on the nation’s debt.

Host Dana Bash tried pointing out specifically how the cuts they want would hurt his constituents, but Emmer made it clear he will ignore them or just blame Nancy Pelosi when the reality doesn’t match his delusions.

GOP’s Vanity Tech Douche Candidate Returns

NBC’s “Meet The Press” had on Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Although considering his polling, calling him a candidate is a bit too generous, but nonetheless, we are all subjected to his stupidity on TV and expected to take him seriously. So fresh from giving Don Lemon his last good journalistic moment on CNN, Ramaswamy made Chuck Todd look like Walter Cronkite.

When Ramaswamy brings up an example of a person who says their gender doesn’t align with their biological sex, he seems to know the difference between sex and gender. But when Todd questions his stance on gender being binary, Ramaswamy then perhaps deliberately conflates biological sex with gender.

RAMASWAMY: Well, there’s, there’s two X chromosomes if you’re a woman. An X and a Y, that means you’re a man.

TODD: There’s a lot of scientific research out there –

RAMASWAMY: There’s a biological basis for this —

TODD: There’s a lot of scientific research out there that says gender is a spectrum.

RAMASWAMY: Chuck, I respectfully disagree.

Funny how these transphobic clowns want to bring biology into this UNTIL scientific research disputes their transphobia and then they fall back on what they “feel” or disagree just because.

Ramaswamy also equates abortion with murder but says it’s a “states’ right issue.” That’s not how “states’ rights” work, even if a Republican nominee barely polling above skim milk says so.

Asa Hutchinson’s Decimal Points

Speaking of polling, Asa Hutchinson announced he was running for president almost exactly a month ago. He appeared on CNN’s “State Of the Union” this week to call for going back to a Republican Party that died long before Trump came down an escalator in 2015. So how are Republican voters embracing this? We’ll let this picture summarize it.

Can this change for Hutchinson? Likely not when he is polling lower than the fictional Conor Roy in “Succession,” who we actually compared to Hutchinson too optimistically.

Phrasing, Steve Scalise!

When asked about any possible tension between himself and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on ABC’s “This Week,” Steve Scalise chose an odd way to describe their closeness yet trust.

Could be worse: Scalise could have kept misunderstanding what “raw dog” is.

Have a week

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