Military leaders: Trump unfit to lead, Clinton qualified

Retired military leaders Lt. Gen. David Poythress, Col. Carolyn Closs-Walford and Brig-Gen. John Watkins visited Winston-Salem while campaigning across the state for Hillary Clinton.

Military leaders: Trump unfit to lead, Clinton qualified
November 03
08:30 2016

Photo by Todd Luck



As early voting began, high ranking former military leaders supporting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton toured the state.

Ten retired military leaders have been campaigning for Clinton all around North Carolina, which is a battleground state with a high military population.  They spoke at places like Davidson College and visited newspapers, like The Chronicle, where three of the retired ranked officers sat down for an interview on Oct. 20.

Like millions of Americans, they watched the final presidential debate, when Donald Trump wouldn’t say if he’d accept the outcome of the election. Trump, who is trailing in the polls,  keeps telling his followers that if he loses, it’ll be because the election is “rigged.”

This disturbed Ret. Col. Carolyn Closs-Walford, a Louisburg, N.C., native who attended Winston-Salem State University before a long military career that included working in the White House for presidents of both parities.

“I’m like, ‘What country are you representing here?’” she said. “We are Americans, and when the American people speak by way of electing a leader, you accept that and you drive on. You fall in line and you support the will of the country. Again, it just shows how dangerous this person really is.”

Traditionally, national defense has been a winning issue for Republicans. Polls had shown that voters preferred Trump on defense, though some recent polls now show Clinton slightly ahead on the issue.  Ret. Lt. Gen. David Poythress, who became a politician in his native Georgia after serving in the Air Force and National Guard, said Trump appeals to voters with overly simplistic answers for complex problems.

“It’s comfortable and easy to buy that, but the world simply isn’t that simple,” said Poythress. “It takes someone who is informed like Hillary Clinton, who has the experience, who has the judgment and the integrity to be commander-in-chief.”

Poythress said Trump doesn’t understand the issues. He also said Trump’s call for having the military torture prisoners and target the families of terrorists would be “war crimes” that would be a “constitutional crisis in-waiting if he was elected commander-in-chief.”

Ret. Brigadier Gen. John Watkins, who served in the Army for 30 years, said that Hillary has a his-tory of championing military personnel, like when she worked across the aisle as a senator to get medical care extended to the National Guard and reservists. He said that makes her best equipped to deal with Veterans Affairs, which has had issues with the large number of new veterans its serving.

“I have no doubt that Senator Clinton, President Clinton, will take that on just as she did other efforts on behalf of service members,” said Watkins.

Closs-Walford felt Trump didn’t respect veterans because of his comments that implied strong people don’t get Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which is a very common problem for those who’ve been through war.

All three also said that Trump’s claims the military has been depleted under the current administration are false. As technology advances and the mission of the military shifts, less personnel are needed to carry out that mission, they said. The United States leads the world on defense spending and spends more on its military than the next eight countries combined.

They also rejected Trump’s claims that the United States doesn’t win anymore. ISIS has lost almost a third of its territory since the United States began operations against it and will lose more as the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul has begun. They believe that Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, is far more qualified to continue that war than Trump, who has no government or military experience.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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