VIRGINIA BEACH — Donald Trump launched a weeklong series of events Tuesday devoted to military policy — and to attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to a friendly audience in a military community, Trump vowed to defeat the Islamic State, address the "disaster" at VA medical facilities around the nation, block refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries over terrorism concerns and to change the Iran nuclear agreement, which the GOP presidential nominee called "one of the dumbest deals I've ever seen."
Saying "this is one of the most dangerous times we've ever had," Trump told backers that "we're not keeping up" and the fate of the nation is at stake.
The Republican nominee also took frequent shots at Clinton, hitting the former secretary of State on issues ranging from ongoing problems in Libya to her handling of private emails.
Protesting the decision by the FBI and the Justice Department against prosecuting Clinton over the use of a private email system while at the State Department, Trump said that "we're like a third-world country" and Clinton "is a disaster in so many different ways."
Citing the prospect of dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said of Clinton: "Putin looks at her and he laughs."
Clinton and her aides note that Trump has been friendly with Putin and Russia, to the point where he suggested — jokingly — that they hack into the Democratic candidate's emails.
Trump "has generally parroted what is a Putin-Kremlin line," Clinton told reporters Monday, adding that he lacks the experience and temperament to face the nation's global challenges.
During his discussion of military health care, Trump — who is polling poorly among women voters — said he would focus on "female veterans" who are getting "left behind" by the system.
The Clinton campaign has released an ad showing some veterans watching some of Trump's more belligerent statements, including his claim that he knows more about the Islamic State than generals do.
"Our veterans deserve better," says the ad airing in key swing states and on cable nationally.
Trump is expected to address military themes at events later this week in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. On Wednesday night, Trump and Clinton plan to participate in a "Commander-In-Chief" forum sponsored by MSNBC.
Prior to the event at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach, the Trump campaign announced endorsements from 88 retired generals and admirals. "These are our fighters," Trump said.
During the Tuesday event the campaign billed as a town hall, Trump took less-than-difficult questions from a prominent adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who labeled the world situation "a mess."
Virginia is a once-Republican state that President Obama carried in both of his elections.
While Trump touted a new CNN poll giving him a 2-point lead over Clinton nationally, other surveys give the Democratic nominee a lead in Virginia, a state that Trump has indicated is essential to his hopes of victory.
"We have to win," Trump said. "Virginia is a very important state."