A televised debate Wednesday between American Republican presidential hopefuls spiraled into the ‘Battle of the Heels, Part 2’ after businessman and political novice Vivek Ramaswamy lobbed a personal insult at ex-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, the only female candidate on stage.
The two (plus Florida Governor RonDeSantis and two others) were involved in a heated exchange on US foreign policy – that news agency AFP slyly called a “first in Republican debates” – when the Indian-origin Vivek Ramaswamy branded Nikki Haley a “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels“.
Ms Haley – who also exchanged ‘heel’ swipes with Mr DeSantis last week, amid talk he wears lifts to seem taller – snapped, “(I wear) five-inch heels… and I don’t wear them unless you can run in them.”
An apparently unapologetic Mr Ramaswamy also posted a video of his comment on X.
The choice should be clear: We can elect a president who will keep us out of World War III or we can elect a Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels. Because there are two of them on stage with me tonight. @RonDeSantis@NikkiHaleypic.twitter.com/i21U4tErmU
— Vivek Ramaswamy (@VivekGRamaswamy) November 9, 2023
The incendiary back-and-forth came in the first 20 minutes of the debate and as Mr Ramaswamy held forth on Israel’s war on the Palestinian people and the Hamas’ terror attack last month; on this subject all Republican challengers appear united and Ms Haley said she would “finish” Hamas.
“… Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend itself. I would tell him (Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) to smoke those terrorists on his southern border…” Mr Ramaswamy thundered, “(if elected President) I will smoke the terrorists on our southern border.”
“(Do the voters want a) leader from a different generation – who is going to put this country first or do you want Dick Cheney in three-inch heels. We’ve got two of them on stage tonight,” he said.
“They’re not a fashion statement, they’re for ammunition,” Ms Haley hit back.
The reference to former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney was part of criticism of his rivals’ foreign policy stance; this includes Ms Haley backing funding for Ukraine in its war against Russia.
The attack on Nikki Haley was also a reference to her leaving public office to accept a position on the board of American aerospace giants Boeing; she stepped down in March 2020, less than a year later, in opposition to federal support for the company during the global coronavirus crisis.
Mr Ramaswamy’s crass jab was followed by an even tenser (and still more personal) exchange with Ms Haley, in which he called her a hypocrite in their scrap over TikTok – a Chinese video-sharing platform.
While other Republican Presidential hopefuls – Ms Haley, Mr DeSantis, Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – have also backed Israel’s war against Hamas, Mr Ramaswamy has dismissed them as ‘neocons’ as he positions himself as an ‘America First’ candidate.
‘Neocon’ refers to Neoconservatism – a foreign policy supporting democracy as well as intervention in international affairs. Neocons are seen as taking the ‘peace through military strength’ route.
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With input from agencies