The NBC Commander in Chief Forum last week forced both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to answer military related questions that represent the challenges one would face on an average day in the White House. While on paper Clinton came in with the most experience, polling shows that among active military personal and veterans Trump is the favored choice. Even an NBC twitter poll saw Trump as the night’s victor.
The discussion centered around foreign policy and the treatment of our nation’s veterans, with questions from military personal on both sides of the aisle. While the commentator focused on large scale security issues dealing with Iraq and Islamic State, the questions from the crowd remained much closer to home.
Both candidates were asked about the future of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a point which became the first major clash in the forum between Clinton and Trump.
Clinton maintained the system is not completely flawed but must be modernized, taking the opportunity to claim Trump has an agenda for privatization. When Trump entered the stage and was asked about the VA reform he directly refuted Clintons statement, “Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to the local doctor, they choose the doctor, they choose the hospital, whether it’s public or private, they get themselves better.”
While Clinton supported the public option exclusively, Trump advocated the integration of the private and public sector in order to both reform the VA and provide alternative care options for veterans when the system is too backed up. This seemed to be a major factor in veteran support for Trump.
The NBC/Survey Monkey poll of Sept. 7 found that when veterans and military personal were asked who they trusted to handle veteran related issues Trump led 53 percent to 28 percent. Clinton needed to make herself appear trustworthy during the forum but when grilled about her email scandal and position on Iraq, her responses remained on the defensive, attempting to justify her actions.
As both candidates worked to keep veteran affairs in the forefront on the discussion, both were asked how to solve the problem of veterans and active military suicides. While both Clinton and Trump advocated for mental health reform within the military, Clinton focused on general mental health and addiction treatments while Trump focused on VA reform through wider access to the nation’s medical system to address unique veterans’ needs.
According to NBC Twitter poll and reviews, veterans’ issues like these are the reason 63 percent of respondents felt Trump “came out on top” in the forum.
With issues of international significance Clinton attempted to show her savvy as a former Secretary of State and touted her experience consistently, only for Trump to join the conversation and dive into how “unpredictability, logic and strength” are more important in handling foreign affairs than another 4 years of the same tactics. As moderator Matt Lauer set up hypothetical scenarios, Clinton based her arguments on her past while Trump maintained the actions of the past administration are the reason America is no longer safe.
Veterans and active military personal seemed to agree, as Trump is beating Clinton among these groups by 19 points; the second largest margin in any subgroup, only being beaten by the black vote which Clinton maintains. Our military men and women are sending a clear message on foreign policy; the last four years have not worked and another four with Clinton will not, when deciding on their Commander in Chief the leader they appear to be choosing is Trump.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.