NBC and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are co-hosting The Commander-in-Chief forum tonight in New York City beginning at 8pm EST. The format will involve each candidate separately taking the stage to answer 30 minutes of questions related to national security, military affairs and veterans issues.
As The Hill details, Trump and Clinton won’t appear onstage at the same time — that won’t happen until the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26.
Instead, the candidates will take the stage in separate half-hour blocks to field questions from 'Today' show host Matt Lauer, as well as from veterans and active service members in the audience.
Clinton lost the coin toss that determined the order of appearance and will go on first, hitting the stage at 8 p.m. Eastern for the broadcast that will air simultaneously on NBC and MSNBC. Trump will follow, for the second half of the hour-long show.
Matt Lauer has been a controversial choice due to his past involvement with The Clinton Global Initiative. As Eric Trump pointed out, “Obviously there’s a lot of speculation because of [Matt Lauer's] involvement with the foundation. It may as well be a super-PAC against Trump. It’s really, really sad to see what’s happened to the media on that station")
Trump should have a good night, given his lead among military and veteran voters (a NBC-Survey Monkey poll released Wednesday found Trump leading by nearly 20 points among military and veteran voters, 55 percent to 36 percent), but as The Hill notes, the candidates have been hammering one another over foreign affairs in the run-up to the event, each positioning the other as unfit to lead.
In a major foreign policy address on Wednesday in Philadelphia, the GOP nominee detailed his plan to expand the military while accusing Clinton and President Obama of weakening the U.S. armed forces and diminishing the nation’s standing in the world.
Trump has been hammering Clinton for the controversies surrounding her use of a private email server and State Department connections to the Clinton Foundation, making the case that the scandals that have emerged from her tenure as secretary of State disqualify her from the White House.
Clinton, meanwhile, has been raising questions about Trump’s temperament and capacity to lead, casting him as erratic and a danger to the nation’s safety. One pro-Clinton super-PAC ad that will run during Wednesday’s broadcast warns that Trump’s lust for war will lead to a nuclear apocalypse.
Clinton and her allies have also sought to draw attention to Trump’s description of the military as a “disaster,” as well as his past scuffles with the families of service members. Trump has fought bitterly with the family of a slain Muslim soldier and criticized Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) for being a prisoner of war.
Both candidates have rolled out endorsements from dozens of military officials this week. Trump has been bitten in the past by prominent former Republican military officials — most of whom come from the ranks of the two Bush administrations — who have thrown their support to Clinton.
A live feed of the event can be viewed below: