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Himes, Arora challenge each others’ view of reality in debate

October 30, 2018 GMT

STAMFORD — In the last debate before Election Day, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and GOP challenger Harry Arora engaged in a back-and-forth so lively that the moderator jokingly threatened to remove the audience.

The debate, on foreign policy and sponsored by nonprofit World Affairs Forum, exposed wildly different views of the U.S.’s role in international affairs and had both candidates questioning their opponents’ grasp of reality in front of a crowd of more than 300.

Arora, running for his first political office, challenged international bodies and institutions, formed in part by the U.S., such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organiziation. He also questioned bilateral trade agreements that he said worked in the past to the country’s advantage but have since failed to advance U.S. interests.

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In amplified and enraged bursts, Arora tried to peg Democrat Himes, seeking his sixth term, to what he called failed Obama-era policies: the unenforced red-line in Syria that led to a humanitarian and refugee crisis, and supporting trade agreements that he said syphon off jobs to fast-growing emerging markets such as China.

“It is about time the Western World demands fairness in trade,” Arora, an ex-banker, said. “One of our friends loses a job, but the television flat screen goes from $400 to $398…. That’s not worth it … Going to the World Trade Organization is not going to work. We’ve done that for decades.”

Himes, meanwhile, tried to attach Arora to the Trump Administration, which Arora occasionally embraced, saying that negotiations with North Korea have landed tangible results including the recent return of remains of U.S. soldiers.

While Arora questioned Himes’s understanding of the world, Himes questioned Arora’s choice of language, which at times appeared to veer into threats of war rather than diplomacy.

“I want to point out that Mr. Arora is playing the realist card on me, ” Himes said. “ Do not play the realism card with me. You are the one who stood up here and said, ‘We are going to force China to eliminate climate change, we are going to force Russia out of Syria and we are going to curtail Iran’s activities in Syria.’ None of those things are in the realm of possibility.”

In this, the third debate between the two, the candidates rarely adhered to the carefully worded questions posed by the Forum’s moderator, Kay Maxwell, and veered instead to platform positions.

Himes previously worked at Goldman Sachs. Arora traded commodities for Enron, Amaranth Advisers and had his own hedge fund, Arcim Advisors.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

barry.lytton@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2263; @bglytton

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