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Commanders-in-beef, Clinton and Trump square off on national security

Election rewind: Trump, Clinton go head to head on national security

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared back to back in the first Commander-in-Chief Forum in New York, hosted by NBC, where national security took center stage. Clinton spoke again about her email controversy and appealed to voters to consider
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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared back to back in the first Commander-in-Chief Forum in New York, hosted by NBC, where national security took center stage. Clinton spoke again about her email controversy and appealed to voters to consider

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump went aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier to talk national security for a TV audience. Their back-to-back appearances reminded America just how much its presidential campaign is listing.

The country has decided these candidates are awful. The reaction to their Wednesday night show only confirmed that view.

Slate called it a “waste of time … an ill-focused forum, a senseless not-quite-debate” that failed to put the differences between the White House wannabes in sharp relief.

Said one veteran to Foreign Policy: “It’s the lesser of two evils. …Actually, it’s not. This is a horrible election.”

At Politico, both performances got panned: “Neither appeared ready for the brightest lights of 2016 as they flashed the very liabilities that make their backers uneasy.

“Clinton wobbled on style. Trump stumbled on substance.”

CBS News said it was a “tough night” for both.

Although the on-stage interviews began with a plea that the two talk about their policies rather than bash their opponents, they … just … couldn’t … help themselves.

Clinton said she regretted her vote for the invasion of Iraq, but said Trump needs to take responsibility for the same position. Trump said that was all lies (although …).

Clinton, once again, struggled to put the best face on her use of a private email account and computer server to handle the sensitive matters of the State Department. When a retired naval officer asked Clinton how can she expect those with security clearances to put confidence in her leadership when she “clearly corrupted our national security,” she launched into a discussion of email “headers” that she said would identify classified information. Such messages didn’t go back and forth on her email account, the Democrat said.

Yet the FBI has said that some emails did, in fact, contain classified information. Questions about, and her sometimes tortured defense of, the emails dominated her half hour of NBC’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum” about the U.S.S. Intrepid.

Trump’s time on stage with Matt Lauer, the NBC personality who’s been listed as a “notable member” of the Clinton Global Initiative (#laueringthebar was a popular hashtag among the GOP), provided more of a potpourri. It demonstrated yet again the Republican’s ability to say things that baffle political convention.

He spoke admiringly of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s poll numbers and, when challenged about how the Kremlin boss has been a rogue threat to world peace and human rights, seemed to say much the same might be said of President Barack Obama.

Trump again promised a secret plan to quickly rid the world of the Islamic State, but allowed that “my generals” might have ways to improve his scheme.

ISIS would have never come to be if the United States had simply “taken the oil” in Iraq, he insisted.

And he suggested that Clinton is the military hawk in this race, someone with a “happy trigger” more likely to risk American blood and treasure than he.

Asked what personal or professional experience he had to prepare for command of the most powerful military force in history, Trump said he “built a great company,” bartered effectively with the Chinese and has“a common sense on the issues.”

Obama, amid a rocky overseas trip, is not impressed with Trump’s experience and said the Republican’s proposals underwhelm, big league.

“The most important thing for the public and the press is to just listen to what he says and follow up and ask questions to what appear to be either contradictory or uninformed or outright wacky ideas,” the Democratic president said.

This wouldn’t be America and politics without some conspiracies afoot. Some on the right thought the inside of Clinton’s left ear looked suspiciously reflective and floated the notion that she was sporting an earpiece. (A similar canard orbited George W. Bush during the 2004 campaign. Oh, internet, it’s so cute the things you believe.)

Drudge headlined the internet speculation “Hillary and the ear pearl” and linked to InfoWars, which suggested that the theory started with a tweet from the conservative actor James Woods asking simply “Earpiece? #CrookedHillary.”

Or, it could just be some earwax shine. A little yuck, perhaps, but more in line with Occam’s notion that it makes more sense to think horses than Zebras when you hear hoofbeats.

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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