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Himes Opposes U.S. ‘Locking Down’ Mideast Chaos

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes said today he does not back an increased U.S. military presence in Iraq and “will not support the role of the United States locking down chaos in the Middle East.”

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U.S. Rep. Jim Himes addresses today’s Westport Rotary Club meeting. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Addressing the weekly meeting of the Westport Rotary Club, Himes said the United States must be very skeptical about creep in U.S. military commitment in the region.

He said the 1,200-year-old history of Middle East conflicts make defining long-term U.S. strategy in the area difficult.

While the United States has achieved victories in removing Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi from power and killing Taliban leaders, he added: “We’re not very good at the next day.”

At the same time, Himes, who sits on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, said he was all for targeting terrorist leaders.

“I’d rather have them thinking about their personal security rather than taking down an airliner,” he said.

He acknowledged he has become more isolationist in recent times. But at the same time he said U.S. foreign policy always must have as its basis no attacking Israel and no sponsoring international terrorism.

One advantage of withdrawing forces from the Middle East is enabling U.S. foreign policy to concentrate on other areas of the world, including Latin America, Himes said.

Turning to domestic matters, the three-term congressman said his No. 1 job and that other elected representatives must be “to spur economic growth.”

Not enough is being done in this area, he said and prosperity “is not being shared with our middle class who are hanging on by their fingernails.”

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U.S. Rep. Jim Himes covered a wide range of issues during today’s Westport Rotary Club talk. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

He said the Affordable Care Act is “far from perfect” with lots of work that must be done. But he said it has brought affordable healthcare to many.

Himes said improving the nation’s infrastructure as well as education must be a priority. While his hometown of Greenwich and Westport have great schools, “half of the kids in Bridgeport who walk into high school don’t graduate” and many are incarcerated, he said.

Also, colleges need to do better jobs in preparing students for the workforce, Himes said.

He praised IBM for a program in Norwalk where the company has created “a school within a school.”

Graduates who then go on to Norwalk Community College are promised a job interview with IBM upon graduation, Himes said, citing it as an example that needs to be repeated elsewhere.

He defended his yes vote on recent trade legislation which many of his fellow Democrats opposed, calling the recent debate “ugly on my side of the aisle.”

But he said Connecticut is a strong export state with many of the export jobs in Fairfield County. He said he favored renewal of the Export-Import Bank, which makes loans and loan guarantees for the foreign customers of American businesses.

Asked about the growing debt of student loans, Himes said the interest rate on such loans was recently reduced. But he said part of the underlying problem is the rapid growth in tuition costs at colleges.

“Universities must feel increased pressure” on the rate of their tuition increases, Himes said.

Students saddled with costly student loans are not buying cars and not buying homes, adding to the nation’s economic difficulties, he said.

Asked about gun control, Himes said he was not optimistic about chances for legislation in the near future. Any movement must await primaries and the next presidential election, he said.

As for a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing increased special interest funding of elections, often anonymously, Himes said the nation was moving in the wrong direction on this.

He noted that there was not much movement on applying additional controls when the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress. “We did nothing,” he said.

Himes said loose rules on funding elections could result in “Chinese billionaires buying senators.”

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