Donald Trump tried to revive his sputtering campaign Monday by vowing to beef up cybersecurity, wipe out the Islamic State terror group and ensure that veterans receive the care they deserve, at the first of three scheduled campaign stops Monday.
Reeling from a unsteady debate performance, a feud with a former Miss Universe and renewed questions about his tax history, Mr. Trump said at town hall event hosted by the Retired American Warrior PAC in Northern Virginia that political correctness has hurt the military and said he would follow the recommendations of military leaders when it comes to women in combat, transgender rights and other issues.
Asked how he would handle the social engineering and political correctness that has been imposed on the military, Mr. Trump said, “We are going to get away from political correctness.”
“We have a politically correct military that is getting more and more politically correct everyday, and a lot of people in this room don’t even understand how it is possible to do that” he said. “And that is through intelligence, not ignorance, believe me, because some of the things they are asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”
“We’d get our military people to come back and make recommendations to me, and I would follow the recommendation,” he said.
The Obama administration has done away with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gay and lesbian service members and lifted the military ban on transgender service members.
Some news outlets, meanwhile, pounced on the way Mr. Trump addressed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, suggesting his comments show he fails to grasp the issue.
“When you talk about the mental health problems when people come back from war and combat and they’ve see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you are strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” Mr. Trump said, before advocating for better mental health services.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released Monday found that Hillary Clinton is leading Mr. Trump among likely voters by 6 percentage points nationally. Before their first debate last week, Mr. Trump led the same poll by a percentage point.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that Mr. Trump claimed nearly a $1 billion loss on his 1996 tax returns, which could have shielded him from paying federal taxes for years.
The issue, though, did not come up at the town hall meeting, where Mr. Trump said the military has been “depleted” on President Obama’s watch.
“We are the greatest people on Earth, but they are depleted,” Mr. Trump said. “You see where the fighter jets are so old that they can’t get parts anymore, they have to go to airplane graveyards and museum to get parts for our fighter jets that they are currently using.”
Mr. Trump said, “We will build our military forces to a level that will be, I believe, stronger than ever before if I become president of the United States.”
Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, moderated the forum, where Mr. Trump fielded questions about “social engineering” in the military, religious rights in the military and his plan to deal with the rise of radical Islamic militants.
The New York businessman said he has “very strong” ideas about how to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, but said he is not going to spell them out in detail because he wants to retain the element of surprise that has been missing.
“I just want to say that we are going to hit ISIS hard, really hard,” Mr. Trump said. “But I do think this, the American public does not need to know the date and hour and second we are going to attack, and from what side we are going to attack.”
“They just want to see victory,” he said. “We don’t have victory.”