I’m neither a fan nor a supporter of Vivek Ramaswamy, one of the also-rans who’s made it to the “debate” phase of auditions for the vice-presidency or a cabinet slot in a notional second Donald Trump administration. For the most part, neither his ideas nor his presentation impress me. But his demeanor has a way of usefully baiting the other candidates into showing us who they really are.
The big reveal at the second “debate” — scare quotes because these events aren’t really debates, they’re just illegally large advertising donations that the Federal Election Commission turns a blind eye to — came from former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who’s been having a moment as just maybe, possibly, an eensy teensy bit, more likely than Florida governor Ron DeSantis to notch a distant second place to Trump in the GOP presidential primaries.
“TikTok,” Haley informed America by way of scolding Ramaswamy for setting up a campaign account on it, “is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have. … 150 million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts, they can get your financial information, they can get your emails, they can get text messages, they can get all of these things. … You are now wanting kids to go and get on this social media that’s dangerous for all of us.”
In the middle of all this, Haley let loose with what was, I suppose, intended as the zinger: “Every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber.”
Every time Haley speaks, she sounds a little bit dumber, but I doubt that’s Ramaswamy’s fault.
Nor is it Ramaswamy’s fault that she comes off as unhinged on the level of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, the fictional character who engineers a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union for “corrupting” his “precious bodily fluids” in the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.
Is it possible that the Chinese regime gains access to American users’ data via TikTok? Of course it is. We already know that the US regime gains access to the data of Americans, and foreigners, via their use of apps and platforms domiciled in the US. We know this because American hero Edward Snowden told us all about it nearly a decade ago.
Interestingly, Vivek Ramaswamy has pledged to “pardon” Snowden — currently exiled to Russia — for his non-crimes, one of his few truly attractive promises. Haley hasn’t.
It’s possible that Haley’s shrill and bellicose presentation is for real. Or maybe it’s just an act, a woman going over the top to prove that she’d be just as cluelessly belligerent in the Oval Office as any man.
Either way, voters shouldn’t allow her within 100 miles of the nuclear “football.”
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.