Hillary Clinton vowed not to send American ground troops to Iraq “ever again,” and Donald J. Trump insinuated that he had learned shocking new information involving President Obama — without ever revealing what it was — as the two candidates made back-to-back appearances on Wednesday night at a forum that foreshadowed their highly anticipated debate this month.
Mrs. Clinton, who was frequently put on the defensive
by audience members asking questions about her judgment, sought to
reassure voters that she would be a forceful and steady commander in
chief, noting her role in the killing of Osama bin Laden and pledging
that defeating the Islamic State was her “highest counterterrorism
She promised air power and other support to Arab and
Muslim allies but added, “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq
ever again, and we’re not putting them into Syria.”
Mr. Trump was withering in his attacks on Mrs.
Clinton’s record while vague about his own, and he was defensive about
his shifting stands on the Iraq war over the years. He repeatedly
declared that he was ready to handle national security issues.
“A hundred percent,” Mr. Trump said, one of several
instances he made blunt assertions but provided no details. He was
especially insistent in defending his praise of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.
“I think when he calls me brilliant, I’ll take the compliment, O.K.?” Mr. Trump said.
Of the two candidates, Mrs. Clinton faced by far the tougher and most probing inquiry from the moderator, Matt Lauer of NBC, and from an audience of military veterans.
Those questions covered topics including her use of a private email
server while secretary of state, her vote authorizing the use of force
in Iraq and her hawkish foreign policy views.
She appeared stilted at first, particularly when
one Republican — a veteran who had held a top-secret naval flight
clearance — said he would have been “prosecuted and imprisoned” if he
had handled classified information as she had done on her private email
server. He charged that she had “clearly corrupted our national
“I appreciate your concern and also your experience,”
Mrs. Clinton began, and she described the designations for classified
material and how she had handled the most sensitive material “very
“I did exactly what I should have done,” she said. “Always have, and always will.”
The forum was a rare moment when Mrs. Clinton and Mr.
Trump all but appeared in the same room together, talking one after the
other and facing the same audience and moderator. By the end of the
night, the candidates had offered a study in contrasts on substance and