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Clinton, Trump fail to impress LA vets in forum

Josue Guerrero served as a Marine mortarman and saw combat in Iraq. After the "Commander in Chief Forum" showcasing Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Mr. Guerrero said he's still open to hearing from a third-party candidate.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's appearance on a nationally televised forum on national security and veterans' issues Wednesday night left some military veterans in Los Angeles wishing they could hear more from third-party candidates.

About a dozen veterans gathered over beers and appetizers at a sports bar in Hollywood to watch first Clinton, then Trump participate in the first-ever "Commander in Chief Forum," organized by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. The group held the event aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, a floating museum on the Hudson River in Manhattan.

Neither candidate really impressed the crowd.

"I'll be honest with you - I'm still looking at Gary Johnson," former Marine and Iraq vet Josue Guerrero said afterwards. "I'm still not a hundred percent sold on Hillary."

Guerrero wasn’t alone in wishing third-party candidates had had a chance to speak; Air Force vet Rolondo Talbott expressed regret that Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein were not invited to take part in the forum.

"I think, when you look at their platforms, [Johnson and Stein] actually speak a lot closer to veterans' issues," said Talbott.

Clinton got into more specifics than Trump during the forum, particularly with regard to mental health care and job creation for vets, but Talbott and fellow Air Force vet Lisa Kaul found themselves wishing for even more policy prescriptions from both candidates.

Talbott said it would be "cool" if Clinton and Trump had "a veterans' czar." He envisioned a veteran who could serve as "a surrogate for each candidate [who] represented that candidate's platform specifically on veterans' issues."

Kaul agreed. "I think it's so important to have someone who understands the experience of being a veteran and being in the military," Kaul said, adding that she felt such a "czar" would better be able to help craft policies that help vets.

Despite their lack of enthusiasm about the two candidates' performances, most of the vets at the watch party said they’d likely end up voting for Clinton, based on her experience in government. None said they’d vote from Trump.

Veterans and Military Issues Reporter