Trump has also presented varying answers about his plan to deal with ISIS and moderator Matt Lauer pressed the Republican nominee on the issue.
“I have a plan … Look, I have a very substantial chance of winning,” Trump said. “If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is.”
But he also said he would confer with US generals on his ISIS plan, although he criticized Pentagon brass, alleging generals have not stood up to Obama.
“I think under the leadership Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble.”
With less than three weeks until the debate, Trump seemed at ease with the freewheeling style he has often demonstrated on the campaign trail. He caused a stir by defending a tweet that implied military sexual assault is a result of women serving in the military. Meanwhile, Clinton pivoted from questions about her email server to focus on her vision of a robust national security policy.
Asked about what critics call her hawkish foreign policy record, Clinton said: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops into Syria.”
She added: “I view force as a last resort, not a first choice. I will do everything in my power to make sure our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge they may have to face on our behalf, but I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decisions any president and commander and chief can make about sending our men and women into harm’s way.”
Clinton, who said defeating ISIS would be her “highest terrorism goal,” spoke of using air power and regional alliances to defeat the group.
“We’ve gotta do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS,” she said. “We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. They’ve taken back Ramadi, Fallujah. They’ve gotta hold them. They’ve gotta now get into Mosul.”
In a press conference Thursday morning, Clinton told reporters that the forum was “yet another test and Donald Trump failed yet again.”
“We saw more evidence that he is temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander in chief,” she said. “He trash talked American generals.”