Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are engaged in a contest within a contest right now. The bigger contest, of course, is to win the White House; the smaller contest is to accumulate the longer list of military supporters and thereby suggest to voters that the people who really know what to look for in a commander in chief have a clear preference.
The Trump campaign on Tuesday released the names of 88 retired generals and admirals who have endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, to which the Clinton camp responded Wednesday by announcing its own roster of 95 such backers.
So you might think that ahead of NBC's "Commander-in-Chief Forum" Wednesday night, when each campaign will be permitted to stock the crowd with a small cheering section, the political rivals would vie for the more impressive armed forces entourage — and eagerly boast about who is in it.
Not quite. Asked to supply a guest list, Clinton's team quickly shared the names of 11 people, all with military ties, representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, and ranging from an ROTC student to a retired general. The Trump campaign, which at this writing has not publicly released its own list, did not respond to a request Wednesday afternoon for the names of his guests.
This is Clinton's list:
- Anu Bhagwati, Marine Corps veteran and founder of the Service Women's Action Network
- Andrew Borene, former Marine Corps officer
- Carolyn Closs, retired Army colonel
- Alexander Douglas, Army ROTC student
- John Douglass, retired Air Force brigadier general
- Zach Iscol, former Marine Corps captain and Special Operations officer
- Caitlin McGilley, former Navy lieutenant and Afghanistan veteran
- Margaret Mullins, former Army intelligence officer
- Hank Naughton, Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan
- Erin Rogerson, Marine Corps veteran
- Andreas Xenachis, Navy veteran
Whether Trump can match Clinton at this one event says little about his fitness for office, of course. But the optics will be less than ideal if, at a forum devoted to military and national security issues, Trump's support section were to consist of mostly, say, other Trumps while Clinton's is full of veterans who think she is more qualified to lead the nation's armed forces.