Two Indian American politicians on opposite sides of the political divide — Vivek Ramaswamy and Ro Khanna — sparred over their fundamental differences on issues ranging from foreign policy to economy to the American dream.
Republican presidential candidate Ramaswamy and California Democratic Rep. Khanna met for an hourlong debate at St. Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester Wednesday after months of back and forth about facing off.
Moderated by Boston Globe reporter James Pindell, the debate saw Ramaswamy and Khanna focusing on the economy, foreign affairs, climate change and the future of America, in 10-minute segments, according to ABC News.
The two sparred heatedly over foreign policy, taking opposite stands on the amount of funding and support that should be given to Ukraine, amid Russia’s invasion, and other foreign conflicts.
“My view is that Israel has an absolute right to its own national self-defense. That’s the answer,” Ramaswamy said bluntly when asked about Israel’s war with Hamas in the wake of the extremist group’s terror attack on Israel on Oct 7.
Ramaswamy also reiterated his stance against American military involvement in foreign conflicts — something he called the “George Washington America First conservatism,” modifying rival Donald Trump’s own platform.
Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy clash over Israel-Hamas war (October 15, 2023)
Khanna, who prefaced the conversation on foreign affairs with his background of starting out his political career opposing the Iraq War, disagreed, saying “American leadership” is needed — not “American isolationism.”
“One point though …. I agree with you. We should not be in a ground war. We should not get involved in the war,” he said of Israel and Hamas. He then said he supports a push for a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians.
When discussing Ukraine, Khanna said, “American interest requires American leadership.”
On the economy, Ramaswamy argued in favor of increasing the domestic supply of “everything that’s worth producing” — including increasing energy production through drilling, nuclear power, fracking and more — but said government regulations and bureaucracy are the “basic obstacle.”
He laid the blame with President Joe Biden. “It is, I think, regrettable to be carrying the water of Joe Biden when in fact … everyday Americans know they’re suffering at the hands of policies that came from this administration,” Ramaswamy said.
Khanna disagreed with Ramaswamy, stressing what he saw as the importance of government involvement in stimulating economic growth.
“Vivek and I completely disagree with what I call ‘economic patriotism’: the role of the government to rebuild industry which has been hollowed out,” he said.
Khanna called Ramaswamy’s proposal to cut the federal bureaucracy by 75% a “horrible idea.” Such a move would likely face logistic and legal challenges of its own. “You need the federal government investments to be able to scale factories. You need it to be able to build,” Khanna said.
On energy, he said, “If something is faster and cleaner — use it. No one is saying don’t use fossil fuels.”
He pushed back on Ramaswamy’s broader campaign message: “We’re not going to have patriotism if we don’t have a vision for economic empowerment. … Just saying, ‘Let’s study the founders, let’s appeal to rhetoric’ isn’t gonna give us a common ground.”
On Climate change, Ramaswamy contended that “climate change policies” could cause more harm than the changing climate, which has raised numerous alarms from scientists and environmentalists.
Khanna responded in disbelief, saying human flourishing requires a planet. He referenced flooding in the state earlier this year.
Ramaswamy took a much more skeptical view: “A lot of this agenda has nothing to do with the climate. It is about flogging ourselves … apologizing for our modern way of life. I’m not against developing alternatives.”
But both were in agreement over the country’s future.
“When I was growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, my parents could not have met a staff member or a member of Congress. Today, there are five South Asians in the United States Congress. This is a country of progress,” Khanna said.
He said that what is needed next is an end to the tax cuts favored by Republicans to give “working, middle-class families” a “shot at the American dream.”
Ramaswamy also suggested that Americans have a lot in common.
“We might disagree on corporate tax rates or whatever those details are. But we agree on the basic rules of the road to meritocracy, free speech, the pursuit of excellence, self-governance over aristocracy, I think most of us in this country do,” he said.
“We still share the ideals of the American Revolution in common, but now it’s up to us to move just beyond celebrating diversity and differences to celebrate those ideals that unite us.”