Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trump Pledges to Sign Anti-LGBTQ Bill, FADA

Donald Trump, as well as many of his supporters, have often touted how supportive he is of the LGBT . . . Q community. Trump certainly has expressed sympathy for the tragic loss of life in the Orlando gay nightclub attacks. As far as the rest of the issues that are relevant to LGBTQ voters, Trump, and certainly the Republican Party, fail and fail ‘Big League,” as Trump so often states.

Most notably, Trump is against marriage equality. Fact-checkers mark this as true

Not only is Trump against marriage equality, he would appoint justices to the Supreme Court that would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that brought marriage equality to the country. 

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But, Trump on September 22nd went farther, joining his VP pick, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, famous for passing one of the nation’s first religious freedom and liberty laws, in supporting the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which goes farther than any religious discrimination bill passed anywhere in the states could have gone. 

In the H.R.2802, “Prohibits the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”
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This goes far beyond just the LGBTQ community. This attacks sex before marriage. Talk about government intrusion into the bedroom!

So, if a business owner doesn’t like you, uses their religion as the reasoning, they can deny you service, kick you out of housing, refuse you anything, all because they don’t like your reputation and blame it on their religion. 

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What’s very interesting about the FADA is that it explicitly states that these businesses refusing business with the excuse of religion cannot be discriminated against with regard to tax write-offs or deductions as well as when they apply for federal grants or benefits. 

The FADA gives all the power, in both litigation and in refusal to service, to those who discriminate. This is what Trump and many Republicans are pushing in Congress. 

Sounds like a supporter of the LGBTQ community, right?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Debate Prep: Hillary, Trump and the Biggest Night

It's unlikely the debate will change the race much if at all. The only real chance for change are for independents and soft supporters of either candidate. Trump's hardcore supporters will still be there no matter what kind of performance he delivers. The same can be said for Hillary Clinton's hardcore base of support.

Currently, Hillary's lagging group of support is in the under 30 crowd. If one is to believe the polling data available, it fairly grim. 45% in some polls compared to President Obama's 2012 reelection numbers of 60%.

The remaining Bernie supporters are being split between Johnson-Weld, Jill Stein, and even Trump. It's about voting against the establishment for many. These voters are not going to be swayed by logic, Hillary, her supporters, or by a terrible Trump performance either.
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This could be discouraging as Hillary has the toughest road in these debates. She can't make a mistake, and she has to get Trump to make colossal ones. No matter what she says or how she performs for many, it'll never be good enough. 

Trump is graded by an entirely different set of criteria than her. And, the expectations for him couldn't be lower. All he has to do is minimally exceed them to be seen as winning the debate or at least matching her. 

It's a rough road for her, but one I think she could and will rise to the challenge and meet. 

Her internet haters will be out in full force during and after the debate. They will, as usual, flood the zone in those unscientific web polls in order to give the appearance that Trump won. 
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That is what we should anticipate. 

If anything is accurate, millennials aren't the most reliable of voters. However, it should be of some concern that 66% and 60% respectively voted for Obama in his two elections. Hillary has made up for some of that in white college educated voters and women voters

A lot of this is connected back to the behavior and rhetoric of Bernie, his campaign, and the hardcore of his base of support that still exists. It makes no sense why people would flock to Johnson-Weld, and Stein's only real issue is the Native American pipeline, where an arrest warrant was even issued for her.  

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It might be of some surprise, but the 20% of LGBT voters supporting Trump isn't off the mark. Trump did make a point of including Q in some high profile speeches.

However, Trump still opposes marriage equality, would appoint judges that would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that made marriage equality the law of the land, and has an extensive and murky record and statements regarding the LGBT community, including supporting discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, as Governor Mike Pence signed into law in Indiana.

Of course, 22% of LGBT voters supported Romney in 2012.

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So, Trump certainly has the hardest path to 270 electoral votes. It can be done.

Best advice. Become more informed. Watch the debates. Talk about what's important to you.

These choices are difficult for those who have yet to make up their mind. Take the time to look at what these candidates have actually done with their lives. What work have they done, for whom did they do that work, how long have they been doing it.

I can't wait to see how this debate unfolds.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tulsa, BLM, the Anti-Reform Movement, and Coming Together

As usual, the minute there’s a police shooting, this time in Tulsa, people on every side of the issue begin shooting their mouths off about it.

The anti-BLMs/All Lives Matter people really need to take a few steps back and fathom losing a loved one. They hear Black Lives Matter, they see protests in the street, they see one or two negative stories, these stories are repeated on what seems an endless loop 24/7 it seems, as if that’s what BLM promotes. 

Too many people appropriate those few negative events with the BLM movement across all of those who support Black Lives Matter. Some of these same people accuse BLM and those who want more police accountability and criminal justice reform of believing all police are corrupt. 

Therein lies the problem. 
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This all or nothing mentality, this ‘you’re either with us or you’re against us’ mentality doesn’t help anyone heal and certainly doesn’t help the facts to be heard or discovered in a rational fashion. 

There is a perception that when someone says Black Lives Matter they’re saying ONLY Black Lives Matter. That simply is not the case. If it were, the movement would be called Only BLM.

Also, wanting police to be more accountable and to decrease the numbers of citizens dying and being injured by police actions should be something that everyone could and should get behind, especially police. I don't know any cop that thinks there should be more police shootings. I don’t know any cop that wants to use their weapon against unarmed citizens.
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Most police shootings of citizens every year are absolutely reasonable and necessary. There are many others that are debatable as being absolutely necessary in the lethality. And, there are some others that are in another category altogether.

In all three of these ‘baskets’ of shootings, the mechanisms for investigating, litigating, and bringing to justice any bad actors or even criminals within the system has massive systemic concerns. That system of broken justice is what most people calling for reforms are talking about with regard to these police shootings.

Number one, the people investigating and collecting evidence in these cases are the colleagues of the shooter, the police. This has obvious concerns for evidence collection, with potential tampering, and for loss of vital key evidence.  
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Secondly, the prosecution of these cases is often led by those who have a direct working relationship with those involved in the shooting, the police. These prosecutors require the cooperation of the police in nearly every case that comes before them. These prosecutors require these same police to cooperate with their investigation, an investigation that could lead to charges of one of their own. An investigation that could lead to prosecution and conviction in a court of law. 

Therein, lies the astounding array of conflicts of interest.

Lastly, the judges overseeing these cases have a natural bias in favor of these law enforcement officials. They don’t often question the veracity of statements made by officers or other officials. Police are often called in criminal cases, so these judges naturally see the police as better witnesses. 
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Police are also more experienced at being witnesses. They take notes because they have to as a part of their job. They should have better memory retention in the midst of stress. All of these notes are available to them leading up to testifying. 

All of this creates the systemic concerns that citizens have regarding police accountability, especially the families that have loved ones shot and killed by police. 

And, no, I’m not anti-police. Anything but. It’s through not acknowledging the real practical issues and concerns of citizens that these problems continue to persist and in some communities worsen.

Nowhere in what I just outlined am I suggesting that police are actively circumventing the justice system. I’m simply examining the serious conflicts of interest that exist, the serious and legitimate concerns that many people in the public not only have but know firsthand actually happen.
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BLM is not about blocking traffic or about violence in the street. That doesn’t mean that in the heat of the loss of life of a community member some protestors don’t take to the street and get caught up in the moment. Many of those same people are arrested, fined, or worse end up with injuries. This doesn’t mean that actual criminals don’t take advantage of the chaos surrounding a protest and commit real crimes.

Painting BLM for the bad acts or crimes of a minority of their protestors or of real criminals taking advantage of the chaos surrounding a protest would be the same as painting all cops for the bad acts of the slimmest of minority within their ranks.

Let’s not paint people with broad brushstrokes. Let’s reform the system. Let’s make us all more accountable. Let’s protect our police and the public. Let’s move forward together. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Johnson-Weld, the Libertarian Alternative for Bernie Voters?

“70% of America doesn’t even know who we are, and yet we exist.” This is what Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson said on 60 Minutes regarding his candidacy. 

Mostly, Johnson discusses most issues in a similar fashion, full of hyperbole and cliché. It’s not really what inspires confidence in voters that are concerned about comprehensive policy proposals and progress. Maybe, this is why disaffected voters are considering gravitating toward his campaign. It feels good. He says things that make sense and might even feel right.

Although Johnson does hold some thoughtful and possibly even better sounding, simplistic positions on a couple serious issues, many of his other policies, for me, are an absolute no go. 
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Many Bernie supporters highlight his support of abortion rights (which Americans have), marriage equality (which we also have), and his belief in the legalization of marijuana as top reasons for supporting him. Hillary has actually stated she would protect states that have passed laws legalizing the drug and that she would lower the schedule of marijuana.

Some of these supporters are also inspired by Johnson's stance regarding non-intervention abroad. In reality, Johnson goes much farther. 

Johnson would abolish the Department of Homeland Security. He says he understands the issues involving foreign policy and the fight against terrorism, yet didn’t know one of the major cities that has been on the front lines of the war in Syria for years, Aleppo. This could be due to the fact he has no military strategists advising him. 
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Considering the persistent threats at home and abroad, this casual, nearly flippant attitude Johnson displays regarding ISIS and homeland security threats should be concerning to anyone, especially with the recent attacks in America and to our allies.

He has, however, stated that he does support attacking our enemies when we've been attacked. So, it is unclear where he really stands on this issue.

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Further, the libertarian beliefs Johnson holds and the support he enjoys from other libertarians seem to have taken hold over much if not all of the rest of his presidential platform.

He calls for auditing the Fed . . . it's already audited. He's also called for ending the Fed. The Fed does have many critics, but Johnson has no plans for what to do, how to do it, and what the consequences would be if he were successful in eliminating the Fed.

He calls for cutting the federal budget by 43%, no plan as to how to actually achieve that, nor what the consequences for ordinary Americans would be.

He believes the stimulus failed, even though it saved the economy from entering a second Great Depression. 

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His core belief is that the government cannot interfere when the economy is in trouble. That would spell disaster for millions who may lose their jobs during recessions. Remember the crucial unemployment extensions people received in the Great Recession? Those extensions would not be an option in a Johnson presidency. 

He also believes in balanced budgets, which is actually crucial for states, but for the federal government it simply doesn't make sense during recessions, times of crisis, or when you're making investments like infrastructure or education. 

He has no actual plan for balancing the budget. From his campaign website, "No excuses. No games. A REAL balanced budget.” Except, Johsnon has no plan or real comprehensive policy to do so. 
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That doesn’t negate America’s real debt problems. However, during the Obama years, Obama has cut deficits by a trillion dollars since he took office. We’re actually heading toward solvency as we were during the Clinton administration. 

What Johnson is actually suggesting would drive the American economy back into recession and reverse the progress and gains made over the last 7 years.

Johnson’s tax policies are ambiguous, at best. From his campaign website. ”Stop special interest loopholes. Reward responsibility. And simplify our tax code."

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His jobs plan has literally nothing to it. And, this is due to his strongly held libertarian philosophy on job creation. For Johnson, the government has nothing to do with jobs or wages in his belief system. 

And, where does he stand on wage growth? Increasing the minimum wage? College debt, either past, present, and future? Healthcare costs, cost of prescription drugs, and access to health insurance? 

Who knows. That’s left up to your better angels, as he might say.  

So, that’s why Johnson-Weld doesn’t have a massive campaign staff. In fact, they don’t have a staff. What they are counting on are disaffected voters not caring about comprehensive policies and real progressive action on their progressive agenda.
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They’re counting on people being upset that their candidate isn’t in the general election, and utilizing the resulting anger and outrage stirred up by the media toward both major party candidates to potentially upend the electoral process.

I believe we all should know what we are actually voting for when we enter that voting booth and fill out our ballot. Do you really know what Johnson’s actual policies are? Compare them to Hillary Clinton’s comprehensive policies. Compare them to Trump’s Make Him Great plan.

This is my analysis. Check them out for yourself. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

In Trump's Own Words: Commander-in-Chief Forum

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Donald Trump’s appearance at the Commander-in-Chief forum was a real opportunity for him. He’s the real outsider candidate in this race, and there’s no way to dispute that. Since I’m not supporting him in anyway, I’ll use his own words as much as possible

He has no real experiences to draw from when making decisions about foreign policy and the use of military power. When asked about this specifically, he stated, “Well, I’ve built a great company. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve dealt with foreign countries. I’ve done very well, as an example, tremendously well dealing with China and dealing with so many of the countries that are just ripping this country. They are just taking advantage of us like nobody’s ever seen before. And I’ve had great experience dealing on an international basis.”

Whenever I hear Trump speak, he does so by making grandiose claims, usually by tearing something or someone down, in this case America, which allows him to build himself up as being ‘great.’

The moderator, Matt Lauer, pressed him on this point. Trump responded, “Well, I think the main thing is I have great judgment. I have good judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots. And I happened to hear Hillary Clinton say that I was not against the war in Iraq. I was totally against the war in Iraq. From a — you can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”

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You’ll note he points to Esquire magazine from 2004. The Iraq War started in 2003. Trump has continued to lie about his support and when he came around to being in opposition of the Iraq War. 

Lauer avoids calling out Trump for lying, then asking Trump about some of the repeated claims he has made on the campaign trail, for instance, that he knows more about ISIS then the generals do.

This does get complicated, and does show the history of what I mentioned earlier. Trump tears down the generals that are managing and waging the war against ISIS in order to build himself up as the candidate who can swiftly defeat them. 
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“Well, the generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful. ISIS…I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing for our country . . . I have great faith in the military. I have great faith in certain of the commanders, certainly. ”

So, in the space of a minute, Trump has thrown the generals under the bus, said they’re an embarrassment, and then goes on to say that he has great faith in them. Does anyone else not see the oblivious contradictions? There’s something in this word salad for everyone. 

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And, there’s actually no recognition of the facts on the ground in Iraq and Syria by Trump whatsoever. This is worse, in my opinion, then Hillary’s statement about no ground troops.  In reality, Syria is a mess and likely will be for 50 years. There’s no good options there. Likely, there’s not even bad options. 

Years ago, President Obama’s infamous ‘Red Line’ that Assad crossed by utilizing chemical weapons and that the President then did nothing in response was by every account actually in direct opposition to then Secretary Clinton’s advice. Tying Hillary to the aftermath seems tenuous at best. 

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Turkey, with assistance from Americans and on the ground rebels, have recently pushed back ISIS from the Turkish border region in Syria. Also, there has been a great deal of progress in the fight against ISIS in Iraq. Fallujah and Ramadi have been taken back from their control. Many of the top leaders of ISIS have been killed in both countries. 

The strategy is definitely not a swift one, but it is working slowly and steadily and with utilizing as small an American on-the-ground footprint as possible. Yes, this is a very complicated and long-term problem. Anyone who believes there are swift solutions to the Middle East is ignoring decades and generations of history.
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Trump would make these problems worse. In response to his first veteran question. Trump ended “The — and I think you know — because you’ve been watching me I think for a long time — I’ve always said, shouldn’t be there, but if we’re going to get out, take the oil. If we would have taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS, because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil.”

Now, this is a claim quite a number of American citizens actually believe to be true. Besides not even being feasible, however, this would have actually fed into the broader terrorist’s recruitment propaganda that we were there for their lands and resources, and would have required a substantial on-the-ground presence inside Iraq that would be the source of continued hostilities from not only our enemies but our allies as well. It also is a throwback to the Age of Imperialism.
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No one seems to press Trump too hard on the feasibility of these proposals. These proposals ‘feel’ good and righteous, and that’s the appeal of the absurd to the absurd.

Next, Lauer pressed Trump for his secret plan to defeat ISIS. His response should leave people stunned. He discussed replacing generals, “Well, they’ll probably be different generals, to be honest with you. I mean, I’m looking at the generals, today, you probably saw, I have a piece of paper here, I could show it, 88 generals and admirals endorsed me today.”

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All of those 88 generals and admirals are retired. He kept pulling that piece of paper out during the forum too. It was more a shield from criticism than anything else. “Well, it’s not really — it’s not — yeah, numbers. People that have been losing for us for a long period of time. I mean, the fact is, we have had the worst and you could even say the dumbest foreign policy.”

Again, this is the Trump doctrine. Say something grandiose and terrible about someone else in order to make yourself look big and great. 

This also obscures a larger problem. Trump doesn’t seem to understand the process in which the military promotes within their own ranks. Also, nearly every one of our current generals and admirals have extensive military, on-the-ground experience. This is the experience he wishes to cut away and discard, to replace with what? Perhaps, some of the same less experienced voices that led us into such terrible misadventures as the Iraq War to begin with. 
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Regarding the intelligence briefings that Trump has started to receive because he’s the GOP candidate for President, Trump stated “No, I didn’t learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly — when they call it intelligence, it’s there for a reason — what our experts said to do.”

It’s rare to have such a pushdown from every single expert, but nearly every single one said there was no way this actually was the case. In fact, they all said this was their biggest concern from Trump’s answers because he showed his capacity to hear what he wants to hear and see what he wants to see regardless of the facts presented.
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With regard to Russia, Trump had a way of being disrespectful of America while simultaneously lifting his own credentials. Anyone who has been watching Trump throughout his campaign can tell he has mad respect for President Vladimir Putin. What I do think was exposed during the forum was that this was more due to Putin’s popularity in the polls within Russia than any shady business deals by his former campaign manager. “LAUER: But do you want to be complimented by that former KGB officer? TRUMP: Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I’ll take the compliment, OK?” 

At the beginning of the forum, Trump had used Russia’s recent military posture and behavior with flybys as a sign of disrespect for America and our own military. So, yet again, this shows how Trump characterizes issues and people in terms of putting others down in order to build himself up. 
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Trump’s obsession with polls was made more clear by the next question from a veteran regarding specific policy proposals for veteran services. “Well, I love that question, because I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls. In fact, today a poll came out. And my relationship has been very good.”

For those who were in support of Trump already, his performance was likely a victory. He answered questions. He didn’t call Mexicans rapists. In fact, he did say that any undocumented immigrants who wanted to be in the military should get a special circumstance for being in the country. To be clear, there are about 20,000 serving currently, and there has been efforts by the House GOP to ban this service. This seemed to be new information to Trump.
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Throughout the Commander-in-Chief Forum, Trump was able to field questions and seem presidential, but if you examine the content of his actual answers, there’s a disturbing trend that should trouble anyone who supports the military and American foreign policy. He flat out lies about his own history of support for interventionist wars and military actions in order to attack Hillary Clinton. He uses insults and demeaning language of others in order to pump up the image of himself. 

To me, his own words speak volumes. To others, that’s up to their own judgment. 

Hillary Clinton Competent and Defensive in Commander-in-Chief Forum

In the first ever Commander-in-Chief Forum and the first time both major party candidates were in the same space at nearly the same time, it’s important to realize and acknowledge that people who support either candidate rarely have their minds changed during these forums and debates. If you were against Hillary Clinton before the forum, you were likely unsatisfied with any of her answers. If you were against Donald Trump, there’s likely nothing much he could say to sway your opinion. 

When you watch these events with those acknowledgments and do your best to let go of your personal bias for or against the candidates, there’s an opportunity to learn more about each candidate and where they stand on issues and how they approach matters that come before them.
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This was the first real opportunity for Donald Trump to display any foreign policy knowledge that he may have learned over the course of the campaign from advisors and also to display his judgment and temperament on these foreign policy and military issues. Trump, who won the coin toss, elected to go second, so Secretary Clinton was up first which gave Trump the lasting impression of the night, for better or worse.

Here you will find a separate discussion on his conversation during this Commander-in-Chief Forum. 

For Hillary Clinton, however, this was a crash course in why hiding yourself from the media throughout much of the summer while having decades of real time experience may not have been the wisest choice.
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Hillary, a bit wooden at first, managed to loosen up midway through her half hour. Nearly half of her time was spent explaining and defending her use of a private email server 7 years ago and her Iraq War vote 14 years ago. 

One of the main concerns that plagues a candidate like Hillary Clinton, having had positions to gain experience by making choices, is accruing future issues of concern for voters, pundits, and most importantly critics to parse for years and decades to come.

Hillary’s problems with some voters with regard to her use of a private email server continue to persist. She did herself no favor in this forum by coming into it having such a lack of her own experience in fielding these questions by the press. 
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Of course Matt Lauer, the moderator, was going to ask about the set up of the email server as it calls into question her judgment. She was cleared by the FBI, umpteen congressional investigations have amounted to nothing new as well, and a drip, drip, drip persists from seemingly every source on this issue. 

I do think the question about the Iraq War vote should have also been expected. And, Hillary rightly pointed out Trump’s own support of the war in Iraq and in going into Libya. Both of these claims have been fact-checked as true. Both continue to be denied by Trump, even during his part of the forum. 

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Unfortunately for Hillary, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for policies and prescriptions for veteran issues and for how she would wield our military power abroad. However, she managed to slide in quite a lot of substance in a short amount of time. She was specific about the VA, not wanting it to be privatized. She rattled off specific groups, organizations, and agencies regarding critical veteran issues, although this probably means less to average Americans than it does to military families and veterans. 

Hillary’s one major misstep was stating there would be no ground troops in Iraq or Syria ever again. That’s just a flat out denial of the realities on the ground. Of course, the thousands of American troops that are on the ground there are special forces as well as the military advisors to the Iraqis. These troops aren’t the hundreds of thousands of ground troops that were present during the Iraq War. This just seemed to be a statement to assuage the far left wing of the Democratic Party and other independents who are so anti-war and anti-engagement that they can’t deal with the term ‘ground troops’ in any form.
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For these reasons, Hillary Clinton, although she showed a command of the facts and the issues, probably didn’t win any new supporters from the Commander-in-Chief forum. She, at least, didn’t do any great harm. If anything, this opportunity did expose a couple weaknesses she has on a couple specific issues. And, if history is any indicator, she will be far better at fielding those questions at her next opportunity.