The 2016 presidential election is bothhistoric and unprecedented in modern politics. On the one hand is Democratic presidential nominee and former Obama administration Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who mishandled classified intelligence and has a congressional perjury referral pending before the Department of Justice; on the other hand you have Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a successful billionaire global businessman who speaks his mind and is supported by a populist anti-big-government uprising.
But as the election quickly approaches, principal concerns of those within the homeland security and national security communities are qualifications of both candidates. A number of ranking military and intelligence community officials spoke to Homeland Security Today on background about the presidential race. What’s clear, they stated, is that both Clinton and Trump have polarized and galvanized those responsible for keeping America safe and secure – inside and out.
The officials told Homeland Security Today that the concerns among the ranks boil down to this: Who will more aggressively go after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) while beefing up security in the homeland and also working to restore America’s admittedly deteriorating military.
Trump has declared that a restored military will “be so big, so strong, so powerful, nobody is going mess with us,” which the officials said strikes a “big chord” among those in the military who believe Clinton will work to further cut defense spending.
Clinton is the consummate Washington, DC, political insider with hands-on foreign policy and national security experience. But her baggage is filled with admittedly excessive foreign policy and national security blunders.
For his part, Trump has no national security experience to speak of, though he argues he understands American foreign policy as a result of decades of dealing with foreign governments, heads of state and business leaders.
Politico’s Michael Crowley wrote in late July that Trump effectively rewrote Republican foreign policy as he blamed Clinton for policies endorsed by many Republicans:
“Twelve years after George W. Bush dedicated much of his 2004 Republican nomination acceptance speech to the cause of ‘advanc[ing] liberty in the broader Middle East,’ Donald Trump ripped into Hillary Clinton for advocating a ‘failed policy of nation building and regime change … in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria,’” Crowley said, noting, “Trump’s words underscored a sudden and dramatic shift in direction for a Republican Party once proudly associated with military intervention and democracy promotion in the Arab world.”
Continuing, Crowley wrote, “In some cases, Trump blamed Clinton for Obama policies that the Democratic candidate herself opposed, or for events that Clinton had little or nothing to do with.”
When Trump accepted the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention, he presented a three-point plan to “quickly” destroy ISIS, stating he would abort “the failed policy of nation building and regime change” by working “with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism,” utilizing “absolutely the best” intelligence which he’s now learning about through the classified intelligence briefings both he and Clinton are receiving. Clinton presumably has the upper hand on better understanding and knowing how to utilize intelligence given her access to the highest levels of classified intelligence as secretary of state – something neither she nor Trump are receiving as presidential candidates.
Respondents to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released August 4 found both are “statistically tied on the question of which one would better handle terrorism and homeland security.” Trump led by five points in a similar poll taken in June.
A contemporaneous Fox News poll also found respondents split at 47 percent when asked who would bestdeal with terrorism.