Published: Sun, September 11, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Clinton, Trump confront weaknesses in security forum

Clinton, Trump confront weaknesses in security forum

Traffic cop or truth detector?

The Commander in Chief Forum Wednesday night marked the first time that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared back-to-back on the same stage in the presidential election.

Buoyed by polls showing him regaining some ground on Clinton, Trump portrayed himself in an address in Philadelphia as a defender of traditional Republican values on national security.

"Seriously - everyone, and I mean everyone, knew this would happen", tweeted Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist. "And Matt Lauer didn't have a followup planned?"

A "Today" show representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump also renewed his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his disdain for President Barack Obama, saying that the Russian enjoyed an 82 percent approval rating.

"Please do not disrespect Gold Star families for you have not sacrificed anything for our freedoms", said Sue Niederer, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq. Lauer's NBC colleague, Lester Holt, is scheduled to moderate the first debate on September 26.

When it was his turn, he told Lauer: "I heard Hillary Clinton say I was not against the war in Iraq". FBI Director James Comey had said she was "extremely careless" in her handling of classified material but decided not to prosecute her.

Experts point out the difficulties of doing that in real time, particularly in a hyper-partisan atmosphere.

But the onslaught of criticism didn't really begin until Lauer's segment with Trump.

The first debate is expected to set records for viewership. It's a subtle difference.

Neither candidate did themselves any favors at the forum.

Clinton, who has cast Trump as dangerously ill-prepared to be commander in chief, tried to center the discussion on her foreign policy proposals should she win in November.

But Lauer took heat from political journalists for not challenging Trump when he claimed that he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, something that reporters have repeatedly pointed out conflicts with interviews that Trump gave at the time in which he expressed support.

Perhaps most notable were the questions Lauer did not ask of Trump.

"Probably a good thing that @MLauer won't be a debate moderator", tweeted GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

And in its most coruscating verdict, it simply said the NY event would "be remembered largely for the shortcomings of the man who was tasked with moderating". Trump said he would raise US troop levels to 540,000. "But certainly in that system he's been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader". Through July, Kessler had investigated the truth of 52 claims by Trump and awarded "four Pinocchios" to 33 of them, meaning they were "whoppers".

"I think @MLauer was trying desperately to impress others in the press to prove he's not just a morning show lightweight".

Many intense partisans don't believe - or don't care - when an independent analyst questions the truth of a candidate's statements. He cited his team of military advisers, but also said he has "a common sense" that will help him make decisions on foreign policy.

So much is a judgment call in the moment.

Ahead of the forum, Trump rolled out a new plan to boost military spending by tens of billions of dollars, including major increases in the number of active troops, fighter planes, ships and submarines. "It's just not possible".

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