Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to Give a Taster of Coming Debates

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 09.18.57NICHOLAS CONFESSORE

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Good Wednesday morning.
Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump will not meet on a debate stage until the end of the month. But Wednesday evening, voters will get a preview of sorts, when Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump arrive in New York for a “commander in chief” forum devoted to national security and veterans’ issues.
The forum, organized by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and set to be broadcast on NBC and MSNBC, will be the most prominent back-to-back appearances so far by the two candidates. And it will be held almost exactly 15 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, at a time when many veterans feel estranged from broader society and as the legacy of war in Iraq and the wisdom of American interventions around the world are central issues in the presidential campaign.
“There are 22 million veterans in America, we’re a nation at war, and the issues facing our veterans are at the core of America’s moral fabric,” said Paul J. Rieckhoff, the founder and chief executive of the veterans’ association. “Our issues have never been front and center for the candidates until now.”
Veterans are a crucial voting block, particularly in states like Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. While veterans and active-duty personnel historically lean Republican, data collected by the association on its members suggests that the fastest-growing segment of post-9/11 veterans may be those registered as independents. Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump will answer questions from veterans, as well as from the moderator, Matt Lauer of NBC.
Neither candidate has served in the military, but they have both made an aggressive play for veterans’ votes. Mr. Trump has featured retired military personnel at many of his campaign events, and he has put the need for changes at the Department of Veterans Affairs at the center of his campaign. Mrs. Clinton has attracted the endorsement of multiple senior military officers, and she has argued that Mr. Trump lacks the temperament to lead the country’s armed services.
But Mr. Rieckhoff said he hoped the event would focus on veterans, not on partisan fights. Only in recent years, he said, have Americans begun to hear from post-9/11 veterans in their own words.
“We’re asking them to put their guns away for the night, and unite around the one issue that should unite all parties,” he said. “This is about putting a mirror up for all Americans about what our country is all about.”
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