World / Politics

Clinton pitches foreign policy credentials, U.S. 'exceptionalism' to American Legion vets


Hillary Clinton pitched her foreign policy to Republican voters in a speech to the American Legion on Wednesday, arguing that she would best uphold American values and protect national security interests.

At the veterans’ group annual convention in Cincinnati, the Democratic presidential nominee called the United States an “exceptional nation,” and accused Republican rival Donald Trump of thinking that approach is “insulting to the rest of the world.”

Clinton said the country has a “unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress.” She questioned Trump’s support for the military and hit him for his last-minute trip to Mexico Wednesday, saying it “takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours.”

Clinton, who has an edge in many state and national polls, has been aggressively courting Republicans and independents since the party convention. She stressed her experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as secretary of state.

The speech was touted as one that would emphasize “American exceptionalism,” an idea that the U.S., as an “exceptional” world citizen, has a moral obligation to advance democracy in the world rather than imposing it against another country’s will. The speech largely hewed to the theme of a country with a strong military and one that cares for its veterans, red meat to the American Legion audience.

Her views differ from Trump, who in his foreign policy speech called for the U.S. to seize Iraq’s oil, its major source of income and one of its few natural resources. “To the victor goes the spoils,” he said.

Trump has pledged to “Make America Great Again” and restore the country to a time when, in his view, the U.S. was more prosperous and full of opportunity.

Clinton promised to invest in the military and support veterans. She said the United States must embrace new tactics, noting that the country should “treat cyberattacks just like any other attacks.”

Emphasizing GOP support, Clinton’s campaign rolled out another Republican endorsement Wednesday. James Clad, former deputy assistant secretary of defense under President George W. Bush, will announce his support for Clinton, following a slew of other GOP endorsements from the national security world. In a statement, Clad says that “giving an incoherent amateur the keys to the White House this November will doom us to second- or third-class status.”

Clinton’s speech in Ohio comes after several days of big-ticket private fundraisers in the Hamptons, a wealthy community on New York’s Long Island, where she collected millions at waterfront mansions in preparation for the fall campaign. The fundraising swing concluded in style Tuesday night, with an event featuring performances from Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi and Paul McCartney.

Though many national and state polls show Clinton with an edge, she has been stressing that the campaign must not take anything for granted. At a fundraiser on Monday she told supporters she was “running against someone who will say or do anything. And who knows what that might be.”

Clinton made an open appeal to Republican and independent voters concerned about Trump’s national security credentials and his fitness for office.

“This election shouldn’t be about ideology. It’s not just about differences over policy,” Clinton told an American Legion convention in Cincinnati. “It truly is about who has the experience and the temperament to serve as president and commander in chief.”

Clinton, a former secretary of state and former U.S. senator, at times sounded like the Republican candidates Trump defeated to win his party’s presidential nomination. She highlighted the U.S. role as a global superpower and celebrated “American exceptionalism,” a term frequently used by conservatives in a foreign-policy context.

Clinton told the veterans, “When America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum.”

She harshly rebuked Trump, accusing him of advocating a retreat from global affairs and suggesting that his calls for U.S. forces to torture terror suspects and threaten their families would make the country less safe.

The speech came on the same day that Trump met with Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto, in Mexico City in an attempt to bolster his own foreign-policy profile before delivering a speech on immigration policy Wednesday evening in Arizona.

In a comment that has sparked criticism from many Republicans, Trump has called the U.S.-led NATO military alliance obsolete, although he has since pledged to work with NATO to defeat Islamic State. He has also vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and to make Mexico pay for it.

Brian Katulis, a national-security analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank in Washington, said Clinton’s remarks were in line with “a bipartisan consensus about how we can best keep America safe and secure.”

Trump, he said, stands outside that consensus — something the Clinton campaign has attempted to exploit in courting Republican voters concerned about his rhetoric and lack of government experience.

John Feehery, a Republican strategist in Washington, said Clinton’s approach could peel off some wavering voters, but could cost her support from liberals and others who are wary of overseas conflicts after protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It could lose her votes on the left from folks who are tired of us blundering into any more wars,” he said. “Most voters think we should focus on the home front.”