Policy aide and vets tout Clinton at gathering

As the brunch-time chatter from other rooms echoed off the brick walls of the Smallman Galley in the Strip District, about a dozen military veterans gathered in a back room Sunday to hear a quartet of Hillary Clinton supporters with a range of military and government experience make the case for the Democratic candidate’s credentials to be commander in chief.

They touted Ms. Clinton’s approach to international relations and military policy over that of Republican Donald Trump and said she would be committed to veterans’ needs.

Laura Rosenberger, foreign policy adviser for the Hillary for America campaign, called on Mr. Trump to acknowledge what the Obama administration has said is Russia’s role in the hacking of Democratic campaign emails and efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election. Mr. Trump has questioned that finding.

Ms. Rosenberger, an Upper St. Clair native, also said Mr. Trump has indicated a willingness to weaken the U.S. treaty commitment to help defend NATO countries under attack and to accept the Russian seizure of Crimea from Ukraine, and she called on him to disclose his business ties with Russia.

“For somebody who wants to be commander in chief, to be putting Russia’s interests ahead of American’s interests” is “deeply, deeply troubling,” she said.

Ms. Rosenberger said Ms. Clinton recognizes that foreign policy requires a “toolbox” of diplomacy, economic relations and other tools, with military force as a last result. She depicted Mr. Trump as preferring to “retreat behind our walls” until “we only have one tool left”— military action.

A request for comment to Mr. Trump’s Pennsylvania campaign spokesman was not returned by early Sunday evening. But in his speeches, Mr. Trump has contended that American and global security has deteriorated under the eight years of the Obama administration, which included Ms. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

Those speaking Sunday contended that Mr. Trump vastly oversimplified the situation and his temperament and policies would be dangerous.

Also speaking Sunday on Ms. Clinton’s behalf was Newton, Mass., Mayor Setti Warren, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, who criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on banning Muslims entering the United States, saying the U.S. needs to cooperate with Muslims rather than alienate them.

Also former Navy Capt. Pam Iovino, a Mt. Lebanon native who was an assistant secretary in the Department of Veteran Affairs in the George W. Bush administration, and Mark Jacobson, a former Pentagon senior adviser with both military and civilian experience in Afghanistan, touted Ms. Clinton’s qualifications.

An NBC/​Survey Monkey poll in August found Mr. Trump leading Ms. Clinton by 10 points among members of active-military or veterans households. Veterans trend toward the GOP in presidential races but at different rates; they gave Republican Mitt Romney a 20-point edge in 2012, the American National Elections Study found.

Veterans in the audience, several of whom said they were supporting Ms. Clinton, raised a series of policy questions, such as whether the United States has done enough to resettle Iraqi and Afghan translators and their families for their work on behalf of the U.S. military.

One noted that commanders in chief shouldn’t ask service members to do what they themselves don’t — and asked how Ms. Clinton could hold them accountable for mishandling classified information after an FBI investigation found her “extremely careless” in handling such information.Ms. Rosenberger noted that Ms. Clinton acknowledged her error, and said Ms. Clinton would work to earn the confidence of military members, just as she earned the confidence of Republican colleagues in the Senate on specific legislation.

“The Hillary Clinton I know will work to earn that trust,” Ms. Rosenberger said.

Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1416; Twitter @PG_PeterSmith.

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