"They both carry responsibility," he says, calling their administrations' policies on immigration "very lax" and their focus on bin Laden inadequate. "Certainly Clinton managed to mention the name in a speech, Osama bin Laden, and he didn't do anything about it," Trump says. "Certainly it's something that could have been stopped if they had gone that extra mile."
(Clinton did order airstrikes on al-Qaeda targets in Afghanistan and Sudan in 1997, in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.)
Trump says he is the candidate with the strong leadership skills that are the most important quality of a commander in chief, although he lacks traditional credentials for the job. He scoffs at the idea that Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would make a more effective negotiator with, say, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Bush this week wrote an op-ed article in National Review charging that Trump's "bluster overcompensates for a shocking lack of knowledge on the complex national-security challenges that will confront the next president of the United States," calling his views "dangerous."
"Well, I think I know more about national security than he does," Trump replies. "I think that I would be far more respected by people who run countries, whether it's Putin or you go to China or you go anywhere. We'd have a far more respected administration and a far more respected country."
As he prepares for the third Republican debate next week, Trump says it's time for those who can't make the threshold of 3% support in national polls to end their campaigns. That category would include South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York governor George Pataki and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.
"You have people who were supposed to be really good and they're down to one point or they're down to two points, and some are down to nothing," he says. "To be honest with you, I don't know why they keep running. Perhaps they think it's good for the brand but I don't think it's good for their brand, personally. I think they should get out. I could name a few, but I won't do that because I'm a nice person."
Then he names a few.
"I think it's an embarrassment to the party when Bobby Jindal gets up on stage and when Pataki, who has zero," he said. "You look at Lindsey Graham; it's very sad. Lindsey Graham, he's a sitting senator. He's at zero. And you have a number of zeros and I would think they should get on with their life and go back home."
On the Democratic side, Trump says he wasn't surprised by Vice President Joe Biden's announcement Wednesday that he wouldn't jump into the race. Biden probably would have lost to former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he says, though he also calls Biden a more formidable general-election opponent than Clinton.
"I think he probably saw that he was late," Trump says. "He probably looked at polls. I'm a believer in polls. I only like them because I've been Number One for 100 days now, which is pretty good. How often do you see polls are wrong? Not too often."
Money in the bank
The conventional wisdom first was that Trump wouldn't really run and then, once he did, that his combative comments about Mexican immigrants, female journalists and others would undermine his standing. The general theory was that Trump could affect the debate but not actually win the nomination.
After all, only once since World War II has either major party nominated for president a candidate who hadn't won elective office before, and that was war hero Dwight Eisenhower.
But this week four more national polls showed Trump ahead. In the ABC News/Washington Post Poll, Trump's support was at 32%, trailed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 22% and Florida senator Rubio at 10%. Former Florida governor Bush, crowned by some as a front-runner before the race began, has dropped to a stunning fourth place and 7%.
Trump has now held the lead longer than the string of up-and-down contenders in 2012 — Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich — and has held it more consistently than Mitt Romney, who become the nominee.