Tax returns, emails and border walls rank among the several hot-button issues of this year’s election season, but Wednesday night the two presidential hopefuls faced off on the topics of military might, veteran’s affairs and national security.
The comfortable lead Clinton had over Trump has tightened with the latest CNN/ORC Poll showing Trump just ahead of the former secretary of state 45 percent to 43 percent, according to CNN. Questions on national security and how the next commander-in-chief plans to prioritize America’s military have continued to crop up, and with Nov. 8 looming, the public is hoping for more detailed plans from the POTUS contenders.
The candidates took the stage on Wednesday night for the first ever Commander-in-Chief Forum presented by NBC. Topics on the table were veteran’s affairs, military issues and national security. Clinton, who spoke first, began the forum by highlighting her experience as secretary of state, but the conversation turned quickly once again to her email scandal.
Clinton reiterated her defense on the email issue and worked to turn the conversation to her experience. She also took issue with Trump's charge that she acted recklessly with U.S. military forces.
"I use force as a last resort, not as a first choice," she said.
She added that her highest military goal is the defeat of ISIS.
Trump said he felt prepared for the role of commander-in-chief by virtue of his experience as an international businessman.
When asked about his temperment, Trump suggested that his leadership was on display during his recent trip to Mexico. He said that despite his maligned temperment, he emerged victorious from a crowded GOP primary stage.
When questioned about his confidence in current military leaders, he said: "I have great faith in the military. I have great faith in the commanders... But I have no faith in Hillary Clinton."
Earlier on Wednesday speaking from Philadelphia, Trump portrayed himself as a defender of traditional Republican values on national security but with a distinct unwillingness to launch new wars in the Middle East. After the Brussels attack in March, Trump said, he would not rule out using nuclear arms against ISIS, CNN reported at the time.
Clinton maintains a strong stance against ISIS, but isn’t just focusing on ground troops in Iraq and Syria, her website stated. “Net-warfare” is the next wave Clinton sees coming in the fight against terror groups.
“As president, I will work with our great tech companies from Silicon Valley to Boston to step up our game,” Clinton said in a speech in the wake of the Orlando massacre in July, Vanity Fair reported. “We have to [do] a better job intercepting ISIS’s communications, tracking and analyzing social-media posts, and mapping jihadist networks, as well as promoting credible voices who can provide alternatives to radicalization.”
Both candidates are standing on platforms that promise improved veteran services, from staffing every VA hospital with OBGYNs to expansive mental health care. Trump has even gone so far as to say on his campaign site that he plans to fire Veteran’s Affairs supervisors and revamp the program with new leadership. Clinton said on her campaign site that families of veterans will also receive support, even during the transition back to civilian life.
Clinton and Trump are each in favor of a strong military force. After his New Hampshire primary win, Trump said the U.S. military under him will "be so big, so strong, so powerful, nobody is going mess with us,” MassLive reported at the time.
Clinton, who is not against a strong military, also said she believes that improving incomes of workers at home will lead to a stronger infrastructure. Gun control is also an issue Clinton addresses as a national security issue.
“I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” Clinton is quoted as saying on her campaign website. “We may have our disagreements on gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few things. If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked. You shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show. And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.”
In terms of national security and how to protect the homeland, Trump wants to start with his proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He also plans to take on China by lowering corporate taxes in the U.S. with the assumption that American made goods will cost less as CEOs pass the savings on to the consumers. China, according to Trump’s website, will also have to deal with increased U.S. military in the East and South China Seas.