In the back of a crowded sports bar, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, former Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates David Litt, retired Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman and Duke foreign policy expert Bruce Jentleson spoke to voters.
Clark said in talking with Clinton, he was impressed by her detailed knowledge of military systems.
“I think she has all the tools,” Clark said. “I think she has the right temperament to be able to handle the complexities of foreign policy and to work with sometimes-difficult foreign leaders.”
Jentleson said the next president will face foreign policy issues such as the war in Syria, an increasingly provocative North Korea and international trade.
“It’s a very full agenda, which is why you need someone as president who has experience and judgement and is prepared to hit the ground running on Jan. 20,” he said.
Logan Isaac, an army veteran who attended the panel, said the fact that the panelists brought up Clinton’s trustworthiness reveals voters’ frustration with politics.
“I think that speaks to the desire of a significant portion of our population that’s really kind of sick of business as usual,” he said.
Clark said Clinton respects veterans and has a plan to make the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs more effective.
“I’ve been with her when she’s visited the troops, I know how much they think of her, and I don’t think there’s any comparison to Donald Trump,” he said. “I mean, he’s not in the same ballpark.”
During the panel, Litt said Clinton understands the need for cooperation between government agencies to address the issues that have plagued foreign policy for the past 30 years.
“Another aspect that she recognized is that concern for our veterans and their families is not just an isolated issue — it fits into our whole picture of how the United States engages overseas,” he said.
Jentleson criticized Trump’s positions on abandoning NATO and his leniency on nuclear proliferation in Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Fifty Republican national security and foreign policy experts, including former members of the George W. Bush administration, signed a letter condemning Trump’s candidacy in August. Jentleson said this letter supports the notion that Trump poses a danger to national security.
The panel also discussed the importance of a president’s temperament in decision-making.
Jentleson said in his experience working in the State Department while Clinton was Secretary of State, he witnessed her ability to listen to experts, weigh facts and make deliberate decisions. He said presidents have exhibited these qualities in critical situations, such as in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Trump’s lack of these traits, Jentleson said, is why his presidency would lead to a more dangerous world.
“I think we risk having longtime allies no longer want to be our allies,” Jentleson said. “I think the terrorism threat will be greater because his rhetoric is one of the greatest recruiters for ISIS.”
Clark said the growing international influences of Russia and China will pose the greatest foreign policy challenge to the next president. But he said these relationships are complicated by cooperation on trade, climate change and the war on terror.
“I think Hillary understands the difficulties there and I think she has the experience and the insights to be able to craft the kinds of policies we need to move forward in the world,” he said.