The two US presidential nominees – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – had their first showdown of the campaign on Wednesday night while appearing on NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum” in New York.
Though they didn’t appear face-to-face – that’ll happen when they begin a series of three presidential debates later this month – the two candidates presented their views on key issues, such as their qualifications for becoming the commander-in-chief of the US military, their plans to defeat the Islamic State and their take on foreign policy.
Clinton and Trump also answered questions from serving and former members of the US armed forces. Here are their views on some key issues.
On their qualification to become commander-in-chief:
Clinton: The Democratic nominee said “temperament and judgement” were her qualifications for the post and referred to her experiences in the White House Situation Room, including the decision-making for the raid that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.
“An absolute rock steadiness, and mixed with strength to be able to make the hard decisions. Because I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents. And these are not easy decisions. If they were, they wouldn’t get to the president in the first place,” she said.
Trump: The Republican candidate referred to his experiences in building a “great company” and his track record as a businessman in dealing with countries such as China as his qualifications for the post. He also said he had “great judgement”.
He added: “Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve dealt with foreign countries. I’ve done…tremendously well dealing with China and dealing with so many of the countries that are just ripping this country.”
On their plans for tackling the Islamic State:
Clinton: She described defeating IS as her “highest counterterrorism goal” but said going after American Muslims is making it “more difficult for us to have a coalition with Muslim majority nations” and would not help the US in tackling the group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and protecting the American homeland. The US also has to do a better job “combating ISIS online, where they recruit, where they radicalise”.
“So we need to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground, and online, in cyberspace. And here at home…we have to finally pass a law prohibiting people on the terrorist watch list from being able to buy a gun in the United States of America,” she said.
Clinton made it clear that she would not put US ground troops into Iraq or Syria. “We’ve got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military,” she added.
Trump: He said he would combine his own plan for tackling the IS with the plan framed by US generals to go after the terror group. He also suggested once again that the IS had emerged because President Barack Obama had not prepared for the aftermath of pulling US troops out of Iraq. The IS, he said, had grown strong because of wealth derived from the oil in Iraq.
“I have a plan…If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is,” he said. He also said it would be “wonderful” to work with Russia as it wants to defeat the IS “as badly as we do”.
On their take on US foreign policy:
Clinton: She said she views “force as a last resort, not a first choice” and that she will do everything in her power to ensure that the military is “fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face”. She said there was no difference between her and Trump on the intervention in Libya.
“Not taking (action), and permitting there to be an ongoing civil war in Libya, would have been as dangerous and threatening as what we are now seeing in Syria,” she added.
Trump: He said he thinks he would have a “very good relationship with many foreign leaders”, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. But he accused Clinton of making a mistake in Libya and then complicating the “mistake by having no management once they bombed you know what out of Gadhafi”.
On the nuclear agreement with Iran:
Clinton: She said the US decided to put together an international coalition that included Russia and China to exert pressure through sanctions so that Iran would roll back its nuclear programme. “We got them to the negotiating table. And after I left, we got the agreement. That agreement put a lid on their nuclear weapons program and imposed intrusive inspections,” she said.
She also said she was focussed on the “other malicious activities of the Iranians – ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen, and other places, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas”. But as the president, Clinton said she’d rather deal with Iran on “all of those issues without having to worry as much about their racing for a nuclear weapon”.
Trump: He did not speak much about the Iran’s nuclear programme but suggested that “Iran is going to be taking over Iraq”. He added, “They’ve been doing it. And it’s not a pretty picture.”