World / Politics

Clinton comes out swinging, says putting 'thin-skinned' Trump at the button would be 'historic mistake'

AP/reuters

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 carried on television, 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 reality television 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. “He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant.”

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.

Clinton lambasted Trump’s foreign policy platform as “dangerously incoherent” in a speech on her Republican rival as both a frightening and laughable figure.

In remarks that at times resembled a comedy roast, Clinton unleashed a torrent of polished zingers and one-liners to attack Trump’s policies and character, suggesting Trump might start a nuclear war if elected to the White House simply because “somebody got under his very thin skin.”

“Donald Trump’s ideas are not just different, they are dangerously incoherent,” she said to a room of supporters in San Diego, California. “They’re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Clinton, the front-runner in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, delivered her speech as she seeks to shift her attention to the Nov. 8 election against likely rival Trump and away from Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont who is continuing his long-shot bid for the nomination.

Clinton was speaking in San Diego ahead of California’s June 7 primary election.

Democratic Party leaders have fretted about how to best oppose Trump, who managed to knock out all 16 rivals for the Republican nomination in part with his uninhibited style of assailing them with personal insults. Trump revels in referring to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and dredging up the infidelities of her husband, Bill Clinton, the former president.

Clinton’s remarks were intended in part to show she would not be cowed and that she could go toe-to-toe with him in scornful put-downs.

She suggested Trump would run the U.S. economy “like one of his casinos.”

Amid the laugh lines, Clinton cited her own experience as secretary of state, in particular her role advising President Barack Obama during the mission to kill al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, to suggest her approach to foreign policy was the more serious.

“He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends, including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the pope,” Clinton said, listing some of the allies with whom Trump has verbally sparred in the last year.

Obama, who has also been repeatedly mocked by Trump, has criticized Trump as being ignorant or cavalier about world affairs and has said that Trump’s rise has “rattled” foreign leaders.

Trump has talked tough on foreign policy. He has said he would bring back waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects that are widely regarded as torture and were discontinued by Obama.

Trump has also vowed to renegotiate trade deals, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, and said he would ask members of the 28-nation NATO alliance to “pay up” or “get out.” He has said he would sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Clinton derided these and other positions, promising she would do a better job keeping the United States safe. Standing in front of a backdrop of 19 large U.S. flags, an unusual abundance even by the standards of presidential campaign events, Clinton painted the election as a choice between “two very different visions.”

“One that’s angry, afraid and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline,” she said, summing up Trumpism. “The other is hopeful, generous and confident in the knowledge that America is great, just like we always have been.”

Trump has criticized Clinton for her handling of foreign policy during her 2009-2013 stint as secretary of state, including the Sept. 11, 2012, attack by Islamist militants on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

He cites Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq, launched by former Republican President George W. Bush, as another example of her shortcomings.

In assailing each other’s suitability for the White House, Clinton and Trump are reflecting a negative voter mood ahead of next month’s party conventions that will choose the presidential nominees.

Both Clinton and Trump are facing record-low favorability ratings. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken Friday through Tuesday shows half of Trump supporters say the primary reason they are going to vote for him is “I don’t want Hillary Clinton to win,” while 41 percent of Clinton supporters cite their primary reason as not wanting Trump to win.