Tim Scott blames Joe Biden for ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict at Greenville campaign stop

Republican White House hopeful Tim Scott said President Joe Biden was complicit in the ongoing strife in Israel and Palestine after the Hamas, a militant organization, conducted a surprise attack and infiltrated border towns and army bases.

Scott, campaigning at Stax’s Original Restaurant in Greenville Monday, said the Biden administration exacerbated the conflict with $6 billion funding to Iran.

“The weakness of Joe Biden attracts the attacks and negotiations. Giving $6 billion to the Iranians, frankly, funds the attack,” Scott said. “I think the fact of the matter is that weakness from the American presidency does invite conflict and chaos all over the world.”

Scott’s criticism stems from a deal made in September where the Iranian government agreed to release five detained American citizens in exchange for a promise that the U.S. will not sanction $6 billion of frozen Iranian money in South Korea and release five Iranian citizens detained in the U.S.

Tim Scott speaks with members of the media during a retail campaign event at Stax's Original Restaurant on Poinsette Highway in Greenville, S.C., on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.

Many Republicans claim Iran and the Hamas are aligned, and any concession to Iran translates into a lack of U.S. support to Israel.

The junior senator from South Carolina was not alone in blaming the Biden administration for the current conflict. Politicians from across the spectrum have banded together to call for a swift action to end the conflict that has claimed hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian lives.

“I think having our Special Operations Forces prepared to be of assistance is going to be helpful,” Scott said. “We should also recognize though that Israel does have the resources and the manpower to deal with this conflict themselves, we just need to make sure that they have the backing of the United States that keep Hezbollah from wanting to engage in this conflict situation in Israel.”

Recently, the U.S. Navy deployed its Sixth Fleet closer to Israel as show of support and Scott advocated for the move in an interview with the National Review. But Democrats said Monday that his efforts weren’t comprehensive as he supported Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s long blockade that paused the promotion of about 300 military personnel due to his anti-abortion stance.

The U.S. Senate was able to confirm three nominees, individually, but are unable to confirm promotions, en masse, as the procedure requires a unanimous vote.

“Our service members and communities in the Upstate deserve to know if [Scott] still supports undermining our national security in the wake of an attack on our United States ally,” S.C. Democratic Party Chair Christale Spain said in a press statement.

Tim Scott mingles with restaurant patrons at Stax's Original Restaurant on Poinsette Highway during a retail campaign event in Greenville, S.C., on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.

Scott’s stop in Greenville coincides with slip in SC polling

As he made his way around booths at the breakfast place, Scott’s tour in Upstate South Carolina comes at a time when his polling numbers have continued to lag behind other presidential candidates. In his home state, a recent Winthrop poll had him marked at single digits with Ohio-based candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who was touring in Spartanburg the same day.

Though Scott performed better among Republican-leaning Independents and 49% of the polled voters were confident in the was he was handling his job in the Senate, Scott is headed toward a homegrown contest with former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who has seen growing momentum in polls.

Pickens County resident Retta Sundblad, 67, came to support Scott from Easley. Sundblad said Scott’s office had saved her life after she was convicted for taking money from her company after her daughter had a motorcycle accident.

While serving her sentencing, Sundblad’s family heard about the First Step Act, a bipartisan legislation that former President Donald Trump signed in an effort to reduce recidivism and over-incarceration. The law sought to reduce prison time for non-violent offenders, and Sundblad’s family then contacted Scott’s office for help.

“Every week the prison administrator told me “‘You don’t have to have Mr. Scott’s office keep calling us, we have your name on the list,'” Sundblad recalled.

But she knew Scott would come through.

“(Scott’s staffers] are gonna call until I walk out the door,” she recounted telling the prison administrator.

Tim Scott shares a moment with Retta Sunblad, 67, Pickens County resident, at Stax's Original Restaurant on Poinsette Highway during a retail campaign event in Greenville, S.C., on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.

For her, Scott’s help and his diplomacy set him apart from the larger Republican primary field, adding that other Republican candidates, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have vowed to repeal the First Step Act.

After meeting patrons at the restaurant, Scott also made a stop at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Greenville. He was scheduled to meet pastors for a round of question and answers. Media was allowed to cover the event for only a portion of his visit. The question and answer round was not open to press.

The entire Republican primary field has made efforts to woo the Christian base in early voting states. While talking to pastors, Scott prayed for Israel and reiterated the need for a Biblically sound foundation for the U.S. government.

“I can’t think of a more important time for us to step back away from politics and realize that the human carnage that we are seeing as a result of a boss, attacking Israel is undeniably the personification of evil,” Scott said.

Devyani Chhetri covers SC politics for the Greenville News. You can reach her at dchhetri@gannett.com or @ChhetriDevyani on X.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: At Greenville SC stop, Scott says Biden center of Israel-Hamas conflict

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