In a full-throated general election attack, Hillary Clinton lambasted Donald Trump’s foreign policy vision Thursday as one of war, international turmoil and economic crisis. She contrasted that with what she portrayed as her optimistic, inclusive and diplomatic view of the world, born from her long experience in public life.
There was nothing diplomatic in her remarks, a clear indication of how she’ll take Trump on. Electing him, she said, would be “a historic mistake.”
During a speech in San Diego, the former secretary of state unloaded on her likely presidential election opponent, counting down reasons he is not qualified – from his aggressive Twitter attacks to his emotional outbursts.
“He is not just unprepared; he is temperamentally unfit,” she told several hundred people gathered in a ballroom. “We cannot let him roll the dice with America.”
She predicted dire consequences if he is elected, saying a Trump presidency could lead the U.S. into war abroad, spark nuclear conflicts and ignite economic catastrophe at home.
“There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course deal, but it doesn’t work like that in world affairs,” Clinton said. “The stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels.
She mocked Trump’s Twitter blasts and predicted he was preparing more as she spoke. As if on cue, he tweeted immediately after she finished: “Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton! Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn’t even look presidential!”
Clinton’s robust assault on Trump also was widely broadcast, a change for the leading Democratic candidate who’s frequently struggled to break through coverage of Trump.
It came as she is ramping up her criticism of the presumptive Republican nominee and trying to quell concerns within her own party that she doesn’t have a plan of attack for the general election. Clinton’s campaign wants to show she is ready to take the fight to Trump. Supporters have spent the past week assailing him on housing and veterans’ issues.
In Thursday’s speech, she sought to prove that she is ready to rumble with the famously combative Trump. She offered a number of aggressive new attack lines, at times baiting Trump to respond by calling him “thin skinned.”
She hit Trump for his celebrity past, for his snarky Twitter feed, for his hotelier experience.
She ran down a list of people he has insulted, including the pope.
And she assailed Trump over many past statements, criticizing him for seeking to ban Muslims from entering the country, for talking about leaving NATO and for suggesting Japan could one day acquire nuclear weapons.
“He has the gall to say prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes,” Clinton said.
Emphasizing her experience as first lady, senator and secretary of state, Clinton said she would provide the steady diplomacy the country needs. She said that unlike Trump, she knew how to negotiate complex deals, understood world affairs and recognized what it means to deploy American troops.
Clinton and Trump offer starkly different visions of U.S. foreign policy. Clinton’s detail-oriented proposals reflect the traditional approach of both major parties. Despite differences on some issues, such as the Iraq war and Iran, Democratic and Republican presidents have been generally consistent on policies affecting China, Russia, North Korea, nuclear proliferation, trade, alliances and many other issues.
Trump says U.S. foreign policy has failed. His strong-man “America first” approach is short on details but appeals to the emotions of angry voters who believe that successive leaders have weakened the country, made it vulnerable to terrorism and have been duped into bad trade deals that have cost American jobs.
Trump accused Clinton of lying about his foreign policy plans at a rally at an airport hangar in Sacramento, California, Wednesday night.
“She lies. She made a speech and she’s making another one tomorrow. And they sent me a copy of the speech and it was such lies about my foreign policy,” Trump said.
“They said I want Japan … to get nuclear weapons. Give me a break,” he objected. “I want Japan and Germany and Saudi Arabia and South Korea and many of the NATO nations – they owe us tremendous. We’re taking care of all these people. And what I want them to do is pay up.”
Trump has suggested in the past that he might be OK with Japan one day obtaining nuclear weapons.
Clinton’s campaign hopes her foreign policy experience will help her win over independent and moderate Republican voters who may be wary of Trump’s bombastic style and lack of international experience.
In recent days, Clinton has criticized Trump over his past business practices, his sometimes-slow-to-be-fulfilled promises to raise money for veterans and his now defunct education company, Trump University. On Wednesday she called Trump a “fraud” and said the real estate mogul had taken advantage of vulnerable Americans.
Trump has pushed back. On the education company, he has maintained that customers were overwhelmingly satisfied with the offerings.
While Clinton is stressing her concerns about Trump, she is still dealing with her primary race. She needs just 70 more delegates from states voting Tuesday to win the Democratic primary, but is dealing with a tough fight with rival Bernie Sanders in California.