By Nathan Worcester
Continuing a trend on the site formerly known as Twitter, Elon Musk interviewed 2024 presidential hopeful and fellow entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in a public X space.
Mr. Musk interviewed another Republican candidate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in a glitch-ridden space in late May.
He went on to host Democratic aspirant Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in early June. Mr. Musk publicly invited Mr. Kennedy to appear in a space after the Democrat revealed he had been booted off of Instagram, a social media site owned by Meta.
Mr. Ramaswamy’s space garnered more than 500,000 total viewers, according to X’s public metrics in the minutes after it finished. Toward the end, the space recorded more than 46,000 active listeners.
Defends ‘Merit-Based Legal Immigration’
Mr. Ramaswamy showcased his self-described “America First 2.0” platform, ahead of an appearance on Saturday with other Republicans at the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines.
The candidate shared the space stage with Mr. Musk, venture capitalist David Sacks, and others, including influencer Ian Miles Cheong and social scientist Richard Hanania.
Mr. Ramaswamy, a biotech entrepreneur and anti-ESG investor, blurbed Mr. Hanania’s new book, “The Origins of Woke,” saying that Mr. Hanania is “unafraid to transcend the Overton Window on issues of race and gender because he is grounded in irrefutable facts and history.”
Yet, in a discussion of immigration, the son of high-achieving legal immigrants made it clear where he stands apart from at least some within the powerful “America First 1.0” coalition, defined in recent times by his 2024 competitor, former President Donald J. Trump.
The conversation turned to immigration after dwelling on the fear of American decline. Mr. Ramaswamy argued that promoting economic growth is crucial to ensuring the country flourishes rather than falters.
“We want to obviously, I think, try to attract the people from around the world who are also merit-focused … We should make it much easier for them to join,” said Mr. Musk, a legal immigrant born in South Africa.
“I agree with that. I actually fully agree with that,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.
“That’s one of the things where I think the Republican Party needs to define where we actually stand. There is an anti-legal immigration current,” he said, later adding that “merit-based immigration is one of the fixes to economic growth in this country.”
Mr. Ramaswamy said he would contest opposition to his stance during the Aug. 23 Republican debate in Milwaukee.
“If anybody has any qualms with this, I think I’m going to have a real problem with that,” he said, arguing that the economy would benefit from merit-based immigration.
Mr. Ramaswamy has spoken with immigration skeptics on the Republican side of the aisle as part of his campaign for the Republican nomination, including Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies.
In February, shortly after announcing his candidacy, Mr. Ramaswamy told The Epoch Times that America needs “an unapologetic points-based system” to evaluate would-be citizens.
Mr. Ramaswamy, Mr. Musk, and Mr. Sacks also discussed the Russia–Ukraine conflict, offering sounder footing for a candidate hoping to inherit the mantle of MAGA.
They questioned the Senate’s July 26 vote against an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Kan.) to create an Office of the Lead Inspector General for Ukraine Assistance. The vote didn’t reach the three-fifths majority required to pass, thanks mostly to votes from Democrats. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a reputation as a consistently anti-war voice, also voted against it.
A similar measure meant to address Pentagon accounting, introduced by Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), was soundly defeated in a 39–60 vote.
The amendments’ failures came after the Department of Defense revealed it had overestimated the value of weapons sent to Ukraine by more than $6 billion.
“We can handle the truth. We can handle the truth that our money was siphoned to pay a bunch of Ukrainian corrupt people, including the government bills,” Mr. Ramaswamy said, adding that American taxpayers are covering salary costs for officials in the war-torn country.
“If we’re going to do it, let’s at least see it. Let’s at least be able to account for it,” he added.
Advocates Trans-Pacific Partnership
On the so-called “three-legged stool” of America First–immigration, foreign policy, and trade–Mr. Ramaswamy again differentiated himself from some in Mr. Trump’s America First 1.0 camp.
In response to a question from Mr. Cheong on China, he stressed his general support for trade with the world.
“But, we’ve got to make sure that everybody’s actually playing by the same set of rules,” he said, outlining the areas where he said he would make China change its approach to business.
He said that his approach to trade would involve “reentering the Pacific trade relationships around the western rim of the Pacific”–more specifically, the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
He said Mr. Trump’s high-profile choice to leave that agreement was a “poor decision.”
Asked by Mr. Cheong about the deal’s perceived unfairness to Americans, Mr. Ramaswamy said that the United States’ exit would provide leverage to get better trade deals from Japan and other countries that have ratified the deal as well as against China.
“I’m a silver lining guy,” he said.