Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson’s audience witnessed one of those hilariously spontaneous moments only possible on live TV. Chris Miller, former acting Defense secretary, incredulously half-asked his host, “Vivek (Ramaswamy) just announced that he’s going to run for president? Did I hear that right in the last segment?”
Assured he had indeed perceived correctly, Miller continued, “That’s just amazing. So I’m literally second fiddle.”
Miller can be excused for uncertainty that he had captured the 37-year-old activist-investor-author’s declaration. Ramaswamy stepped on his own applause line – awkwardly delivered as “I am running for United States President” instead of the traditional, more majestic “President of the United States” – as almost just another casual thought in a six-minute, rapid-fire mostly-monologue download of seemingly every idea he’s ever had.
In the course of his interview, Ramaswamy covered his biggest policy innovation – eliminating affirmative action in “every sphere of American life” – as part of a welcome paean to “putting merit back into America,” including immigration policy. Alongside other fashionable conservative notions: free speech, sidelining “climate religion,” elected officials running the country instead of bureaucrats, “complete decoupling” from China, and dispatching troops to the southern border to confront cartels.
Carlson thereupon identified the erstwhile Goldman intern as “one of the great talkers” the show had ever hosted. And Ramaswamy is a great and again, very fast and these days, frequently seen and heard talker.
But that’s just it. America does not elect talkers as president. It elects leaders (two of the last three White House occupants excepted).
Ramaswamy’s opponents for the nation’s highest office will include a former chief executive who produced an extraordinary economic recovery, accelerated by a previously seemingly unachievable corporate tax cut, before being sandbagged by the COVID cops. Brought order to the aforementioned border. Appointed constitutionalists to benches, leading to a reversal of history’s most controversial opinion. Flipped foreign policy on its head, standing up to China and NATO, crushing ISIS, and midwifing a series of breathtaking Middle East peace accords.
Another near-certain rival led the nation’s third-largest state through COVID by bravely rejecting lockdowns of schools and businesses; generated his own growth spurt yielding the largest surplus in the state history along with epic tax relief; invested wisely to preserve the region’s fragile eco-balance while rejecting climate silliness; and brought one of his domain’s largest and most feared employers to its knees for opposing him in his multi-front, successful battle against woke indoctrination.
Other declared and possible entrants include more successful governors; a respected former vice president; and an equally tough-on-China former Secretary of State.
Ramaswamy? He has written two books and started a boutique anti-woke activist investing firm with other people’s money. And been on TV a lot and swamped social media.
Which brings us to the second point: Ramaswamy’s out-of-nowhere announcement and his overall style show him to be a man in a hurry, in the worst sense. Miller can also be pardoned for considering himself “second fiddle,” because the youthful aspirant comes across as the smartest kid in the class who wants everyone to know he is the smartest kid in the class and deserves to be, now literally, at the head of same class.
Ramaswamy’s been on the – sort of – national scene like two minutes, and he wants to be president? Trump charted an unconventional course to the presidency, but for all his faults and failures, before entering politics – riding that escalator in his eponymous building – he oversaw a global real-estate and hospitality empire and created a worldwide brand. He had been a household name and high-profile media figure interacting with politicians for decades.
Excuse me if this sounds prejudicial, but most Americans will have trouble pronouncing, much less recognizing, Ramaswamy’s name. And PS: no one likes the smartest kid in the class who wants everyone to know he’s the smartest kid in the class.
Some advice here: Ramaswamy needs to slow down, not just in his speech but also his reach. He must demonstrate that, unlike other great talkers who crashed and burned in striving for the presidency or serving in it, he’s actually up to leading and not just pleading.
That he can run something bigger than a two-car funeral and, unlike Trump, has the situational awareness to delegate wisely to the right people and not get bushwhacked by the Deep State bureaucracy. That he can referee climbers and backstabbers on his own team. And relate to and persuade recalcitrant legislators, not upstage them, as well as everyday Americans eating fried everything at Iowa state fairs and downing morning coffee at New Hampshire diners.
That he can avoid the career-ending gaffe, more likely to come from someone speaking so fast, and take the political punches surely forthcoming from all sides. And for all his smarts and promise, he needs someone, as Tiger Woods’ dad reportedly did early in his career, who can occasionally tell him “You ain’t sh–.”
Much of what Ramaswamy had to say had this commentator nodding like a bobblehead doll. It’s just that there was too much of it, coming way too fast. Certainly for Chris Miller. And probably for America as well.
Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.