Trump and Clinton face off on national security

2016-09-19 21:08
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump. (Joe Raedle & Spencer Platt, AFP)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump. (Joe Raedle & Spencer Platt, AFP)

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New York - Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were plunged into questions about US national security on Monday after three attacks in a single day put the threat of terrorism at the top of the US agenda.

News of the New York bombing, a Minnesota mass stabbing and a New Jersey pipe blast were still being absorbed by the candidates and the public, making the political repercussions hard to predict.

Neither candidate has benefitted markedly from national security issues so far, judging from the reactions that followed June's attack on an Orlando nightclub or the string of attacks in Europe.

Republican Trump, who has made anxieties over security a cornerstone of his platform, lost no time in jumping on the latest events, speculating they could signal "a big change" with more attacks in the offing.

"Our country has been weak. We're letting people in by the thousands and tens of thousands. I've been saying you've got to stop it," he said on Fox and Friends.

The billionaire has blamed the rise of the Islamic State group on Barack Obama and on Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee.

Trump advocates selectively closing US borders to people based on their country of origin, including barring the entrance of Syrian refugees. Trump has criticised Democrat Clinton's plan to allow more refugees from war-torn Syria into the US.

The real estate mogul opened a rally in Colorado Springs on Sunday with news that "a bomb went off in New York" - before local authorities had confirmed details of the explosion.

"I must tell you that just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what's going on but, boy, we are really in a time," he told his supporters. "We better get very tough, folks. We better get very tough. We'll find out."

"It's a terrible thing that's going on in our world and in our country and we are going to get tough and smart and vigilant."

Trump has boasted of his endorsements from the main organisation representing US Border Patrol Agents and the nation's largest police union, as well as from more than 160 former generals and admirals.

Mingling with world leaders

Addressing a press conference on Monday in New York, Clinton struck a contrasting tone, insisting Americans would not be bowed by the latest attacks as she sought to show she has the mettle to be commander-in-chief.

"We choose resolve, not fear," said Clinton, brandishing her national security credentials and calling for an "intelligence surge" to counter disparate and diffuse plots.

"We have faced threats before," she said.

"We will not turn on each other or undermine our values," said Clinton, warning as she has done repeatedly that Trump's rhetoric plays into the hands of extremists "who are looking to make this into a war against Islam".

Clinton presents herself as the voice of experience, leveraging her long political career in her bid for the White House.

She is slated to meet on Monday Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko, as well as Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, all on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Sunday evening ABC reported that Trump would meet Sisi as well, a meeting still unconfirmed by his campaign team.

Clinton often reminds her audiences that she was with Obama during the raids that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.

She regularly rebukes Trump for his impulsive style, pressing the theme that he is unfit to be president.

"I would trust Hillary Clinton with Nat's life, with my son's life," the Democrat's running mate Tim Kaine - whose son is in the military - told CBS on Sunday.

"And the reason I would, is because she's had that searing experience of being at the World Trade Center as they were searching survivors," Kaine said. "Because she's been our secretary of state, because she was part of a national security team that revived the hunt and wiped Osama bin Laden off the face of the earth."

American voters, though, are split.

According to a Fox News poll published prior to the weekend, 46% of voters have more confidence in Clinton regarding questions of terrorism and national security, versus 45% who prefer Trump.

Read more on:    donald trump  |  hillary clinton  |  us  |  us elections 2016  |  migrants

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