Hours before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled to participate in a commander in chief forum hosted by NBC and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Clinton released a list of endorsements from 95 retired generals and admirals in response to Trump’s Monday list of 88.
The Clinton camp even acknowledged that neither candidate’s tally came close to the overwhelming military support for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, when 500 retired generals and admirals signed onto a full-page ad supporting Romney.
Hillary’s team did boast of their total as “the backing of more senior military service members and former officials with command and management experience than any non-incumbent Democrat.”
Most of the names on Clinton’s list had previously made their support known, including former commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan Gen. John Allen, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and 2004 presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark, and former commander in chief of the United States Army Europe/Commander, Central Army Group, and U.S. Army Europe Gen. David Maddox.
Among the new Clinton endorsees: Former commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command Adm. John Nathman and former commander of Air Education and Training Command Gen. Lloyd “Fig” Newton, who was also the first African-American pilot in the Air Force Thunderbirds.
Trump’s list includes three retired four-star generals: Gen. Burwell B. Bell III, who commanded the United States Army, Europe, and U.S. forces in Korea; Gen. Alfred Hansen, who commanded the Air Force Logistics Command; and Gen. Crosbie “Butch” Saint, commander US Army Europe. There is one admiral on the list: former Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jerry Johnson.
Clinton’s list has seven four-star generals and admirals: Nathman, Allen, Clark, Maddox, Newton, former Eighth U.S. Army commander Gen. Robert Sennewald, and former commanding general of the United States Army Materiel Command Gen. Johnnie Wilson.
Clinton’s campaign released a statement from Newton stating that “given the challenges we face around the world today, and the rhetoric we are hearing from some at home, I feel I have a moral imperative to come forth and endorse Secretary Hillary Clinton for president.”
“This is not about Democrat or Republican, this is about who is best qualified to lead the country in this complex world we live in,” Newton said. “Hillary Clinton is the only candidate that has the experience, temperament, critical thinking and level-headed leadership to keep America safe and our partnerships strong. She has my vote in November.”
Trump’s camp released a statement from his advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, along with the list. “Hillary Clinton has made clear she is running as a staunch defender of the status quo when it comes to the issues facing our military, and she has shown through her foreign policy decisions and her mishandling of classified information that she lacks the judgment to do the job,” said Flynn. “Mr.Trump’s deep and growing support in the military community and his thoughtful proposals show he’s the right person to lead our men and women in uniform.”
One of Trump’s endorsers, longtime Fox News contributor Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney (ret.), told the Daily Beast he signed on to the letter backing the businessman because “I feel I have an obligation to the American people to be a part of the discourse and discuss these important national security issues because they are complex, especially on radical Islam.”
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and the Seventh Army who is now a CNN contributor, panned Trump’s endorsement list. Hertling has not made an endorsement.
“I didn’t recognize many of those names as being there in the fight with me over the last 16 years,” said Hertling, who retired in 2012. “There aren’t a whole lot of names in the fight against al-Qaeda or several of the other forces.”
Trump won a coin toss and chose to take questions second at tonight’s hourlong 8 p.m. EST forum. NBC said questions will be posed to the candidates “on national security, military affairs and veterans issues from NBC News and an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members.”