Oct. 12—NORWICH — U.S. Sen. , in a luncheon speech Thursday to members of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut, said last week’s attacks on Israel that left more than 3,000 dead were a work of evil, requiring a sense of outrage similar to how Americans reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year.
“This is personal for me,” Blumenthal told the 200 people who later gave him a standing ovation at the Holiday Inn Norwich. “It is outrageous, and it threatens in a sense all of us. … I don’t think I’ve ever come here at a time of greater threat.”
Blumenthal, who is Jewish, said he is grateful for the outpouring of support on both sides of the political aisle for Israel, mentioning that he currently has a cousin headed to the front lines. He called Israel America’s best and most reliable ally in the Middle East.
In response to a question about protests on college campuses supporting Hamas, the group that launched a massive surprise attack Saturday against unsuspecting civilians as well as military positions, Blumenthal said he hopes school administrations take a strong stance on the right of Israel to exist and defend itself.
“Our universities and colleges need to take a stronger stand,” he said. “This war is not against the Palestinian people; it is against a terrorist organization.”
Still, he acknowledged students’ First Amendment rights to express themselves.
“They have a right to say whatever they want, and I have a right to condemn that point of view, and that’s what I’m doing,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal took the time to connect the atrocities in Israel, where Hamas fighters reportedly killed women and children indiscriminately, to the ongoing, 18-month war in Ukraine. He said he has been to Ukraine about a half dozen times in that period and has visited mass grave sites where similar atrocities occurred.
He said he admired the courage of the Ukrainian people, who need American weapons to continue fighting on a level playing field, though he said they have told him, “We will fight with pitchforks if necessary.
“They have seen (Russian President Vladimir) Putin firsthand, and they know he is coming for them,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal said Putin intends to bring back the old Soviet Union, and his next target will be a NATO nation, inevitably dragging the United States into war. He pointed out that the federal government’s spending on the war in Ukraine currently amounts to only 5% of the overall U.S. military budget.
“That is a pretty good bargain,” he said.
But he said support for Ukraine and Israel are threatened by a dysfunctional House of Representatives, where the Republicans have been unable to elect a speaker and therefore can’t bring bills up for a vote. While the Senate has moved an appropriations bill with bipartisan support, he said the House cannot pass any legislation, including anything more than a stopgap measure on the debt ceiling.
“The world is more dangerous than at any time since World War II,” Blumenthal said.
On other topics Blumenthal praised a bipartisan bill on infrastructure that is helping to pay for improvements to the Gold Star Memorial Bridge over the Thames River. He added “we can do a lot more” to promote offshore wind developments, and urged the Department of the Treasury to finally write the guidelines required to clarify certain rules, such as accompanying tax credits.
Blumenthal also decried gerrymandering in certain House districts that have deprived minority groups from adequate representation in some states, and said he hopes the Supreme Court will uphold Civil Rights laws.
In addition, he called for more frequent use of antitrust laws to address consolidation in the health care industry and promised to support adequate funding for birth-to-3 programs that have been cut in recent years.
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