The Hillary Clinton campaign released Friday afternoon an open letter signed by New Hampshire veterans that contrasts Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s stances on veterans issues in light of Trump’s recent controversial statements during which he demeaned a Gold Star family.
The letter, released exclusively to The Eagle-Tribune on the eve of Trump’s rally in Windham, details the ways in which Clinton’s economic policy would benefit veterans through the expansion of tax credits for veterans’ employment, strengthening veteran entrepreneurship programs and other, more broad economic plans, such as her plan to create 10.4 million new jobs in her first term.
The campaign said the letter originated from and was drafted by local veterans who then approached the campaign with it to find more like-minded individuals to sign on in support. Fifty-four veterans and the Chair Emeritus of the State Veterans Advisory Committee signed on to the letter.
“While Hillary Clinton toured the country highlighting a jobs plan that would help reduce veteran unemployment within her first 100 days as President, Donald Trump was insulting veterans and disparaging the sacrifices of a Gold Star family,” the critique said.
Jim Smith, a Salem resident and former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, was among the 55 veterans who signed the note. Having worked closely with Clinton while she was Secretary of State, Smith was a strong supporter of the candidate from the beginning of the primary race.
“Part of the letter I really liked is they really focused on economic issues, which is something I thought was missing from the convention,” Smith said in a telephone interview. “She has some really well-defined ideas.”
Smith said he feels the nation needs to have an “honest conversation” about policy and the number of jobs being eliminated by new technology.
“You’re essentially bringing robots in to do manual labor,” he said. “If we’re going to maintain the most efficient manufacturing base in the world, there has to be a conversation about those displaced.”
Part of the letter noted Clinton’s plans to invest in manufacturing and create “good-paying clean energy jobs” — important additions for veterans, among whom the unemployment rate in the United States was 4.6 percent in 2015 (among veterans who were on active duty following September 2001, the unemployment rate was 5.8 percent).
“I think that she is going to do things that are good for veterans, and for people who are in the military and as they come out…people who need jobs,” said John Knowles, a 69-year-old veteran living in Hudson who signed the letter.
He added that Clinton’s proposed investments in infrastructure improvement would create jobs.
“Although Republicans would probably disagree with this, if you get people on the lower end of the economic scale to do better, they have more money to spend, which helps everybody — including the people at the top,” Knowles said.
The missive details Clinton’s economic plan before calling Trump out for his “ruthless disregard for veterans’ service” and “thin skin.”
“Not only has he repeatedly torn down veterans and trivialized their sacrifices, but he has lied about his donations to veterans’ charities, called avoiding STDs his ‘personal Vietnam,’ (and) fired or not hired veteran reservists due to their service commitments,” the letter continued.
Knowles said that while he did not pen the letter, “it was what I was thinking.”
“It was not me, but it said things that I agree with, so I had no problem signing on,” he said. “I just think he (Trump) doesn’t have a clue. I wouldn’t say that he hates veterans, certainly. I just don’t think that he has any idea of anybody outside of his little bubble.”
While Trump has brought widespread condemnation upon himself for recent comments about veterans, Clinton has struggled with the same demographic, much of which still holds resentment against her for the Benghazi attack in 2012.
But Smith, a veteran and former foreign ambassador who has come to know Clinton on a personal level, said there is a “side…that the public doesn’t see very well.”
“I was on active duty when Hillary was in the Senate, and she was one of those people on the Armed Services Committee, and you can ask any senior officer (on duty at the time), she really focused on learning the defense business and those things that impacted people in the military, including veterans,” Smith said.
“I can tell you without reservation that she was singularly focused on the people that were serving,” he added.
Clinton is expected to visit the Granite State in the coming weeks.
The Trump campaign could not be reached for comment at press time.