Ri­vals clash on de­fense at N.Y. fo­rum

Clin­ton and Trump tackle ques­tions on na­tional se­cu­rity is­sues aboard In­trepid

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Chris Mege­rian and Michael Fin­negan

Don­ald Trump sought to al­lay voter con­cerns about his tem­per­a­ment Wed­nes­day as Hil­lary Clin­ton tried to as­sure Amer­i­cans that her mis­takes in han­dling na­tional- se­cu­rity email should not un­der­cut their trust in her ca­pac­ity to lead the na­tion.

In a scrappy pre­lude to their up­com­ing de­bates, the ri­val pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees ap­peared back-to-back at an NBC News town hall in New York, high­light­ing con­trasts on tur­moil in the Mid­dle East and other mat­ters of con­cern to the in­per­son mil­i­tary au­di­ence.

Trump re­newed his praise for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. The Repub­li­can, who has wa­vered on whether he would com­mit to de­fend­ing NATO al­lies un­der at­tack by Rus­sia, ar- gued that Putin was more ef­fec­tive than Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and that the Rus­sian leader’s com­pli­ments of Trump would not af­fect their re­la­tion­ship.

“The fact that he calls me bril­liant or what­ever he calls me is go­ing to have zero im­pact,” Trump said. “If he says great things about me, I’m go­ing to say great things about him. … Now it’s a very dif­fer­ent sys­tem, and I don’t hap­pen to like the sys­tem. But cer­tainly in that sys­tem he’s been a leader, far more than our pres­i­dent has been a leader.”

Trump also stood by his 2013 com­ment on Twit­ter about the fre­quency of sex­ual as­sault in the mil­i­tary: “26,000 un­re­ported sex­ual as­saults in the mil­i­tary — only 238 con­vic­tions. What did these ge­niuses ex­pect when they put men & women to­gether?”

“It is a cor­rect tweet,” Trump said when Matt Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton took the stage first Wed­nes­day night. Lauer, the “To­day” show an­chor who mod­er­ated the fo­rum, asked about it. “There are many peo­ple that think that that’s ab­so­lutely cor­rect.”

Trump was im­me­di­ately slammed on so­cial me­dia for de­fend­ing the tweet.

Asked whether the so­lu­tion was to keep women from serv­ing in the mil­i­tary, Trump said no.

Trump also stood by his in­ac­cu­rate claims that he op­posed U.S. mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Iraq and Libya, and he de­fended his com­ment that he un­der­stands the Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist group bet­ter than U.S. gen­eral do. “Un­der the lead­er­ship of Barack Obama and Hil­lary Clin­ton, the gen­er­als have been re­duced to rub­ble,” Trump said. “They have been re­duced to a point where it’s em­bar­rass­ing to our coun­try.”

The Is­lamic State never would have gained power in Syria and Iraq if the U.S. had oc­cu­pied Iraq’s oil fields at the end of the Iraq war, he ar­gued.

“We spend 3 tril­lion dol­lars, we lose thou­sands and thou­sands of lives, and then, Matt, what hap­pens is we get noth­ing,” Trump said. “It used to be to the vic­tor be­long the spoils. Now, there was no vic­tor there, be­lieve me. There was no vic­tor. But I al­ways said take the oil.”

Clin­ton, who ap­peared be­fore Trump, spent the bet­ter part of her half-hour ex­plain­ing how she han­dled clas­si­fied ma­te­ri­als dur­ing her four years as sec­re­tary of state. The Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee ex­pressed re­gret about us­ing a pri­vate email server and in­sisted she never com­pro-

BREN­DAN SMIALOWSKI/GETTY-AFP

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