Democratic presidential candidate, flanked by 19 American flags, says Republican rival is 'temperamentally unfit'

By Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
Updated June 02, 2016 05:00 PM
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Hillary Clinton fired a blistering opening shot at Republican presidential rival Donald Trump on Thursday, using his own words to argue that the bombastic businessman is, at best, naive about foreign policy and, at worst, lethally ignorant. “Letting ISIS run wild, launching a nuclear attack, starting a ground war – these are all a distinct possibility with Donald Trump in charge,” Clinton said.

Flanked by 19 American flags on a San Diego stage, Clinton gave what was billed by her campaign as a major foreign policy address. Quoting Trump’s various campaign speeches, press interviews and prolific Tweets, the Democrat front-runner was witheringly dismissive of Trump’s fitness to be commander in chief and preside in the Oval Office.

“Imagine Donald Trump sitting in the Situation Room … deciding whether to send your spouses or children into battle. Imagine if he had not just his Twitter account at his disposal when he’s angry but America’s entire arsenal,” Clinton said to shouted “no’s” from a friendly audience.

“Do we want him making those calls? Someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism? Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?”

“Donald Trump s ideas aren t just different, they are dangerously incoherent. They re not even really ideas – just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies,” Clinton said. Flicking at a question of his “stability” she added, “This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes because it s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.”

With a reference to her own resume, not only as President Obama’s Secretary of State but also as a world-traveled former First Lady and U.S. senator from New York, Clinton said, “I’m not new to this work and I’m proud to run on my record.”

She sharply questioned Trump’s knowledge and experience: “He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals and admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials because he has, quote, ‘a very good brain.’ He also said, ‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’ ”

“You know what?” Clinton asked, “I don’t believe him … He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about … Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about Iran or its nuclear program. Ask him. It will become very clear, very quickly.”

Disdaining the experience Trump does have – building hotels and casinos, running the Miss Universe pageant and creating reality TV shows – Clinton went on: “You know, there’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf-course deal. But … the stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels.”

“We all know the tools that Donald Trump brings to the table: bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets,” Clinton said. With a grin, she added, “I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now. But those tools won’t do the trick. He has no sense of what it takes.”

In fact, during her 40-minute address, which was carried live in its entirety on multiple cable news networks, Trump tweeted just twice – to question her “credibility” and criticize her delivery: “Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn’t even look presidential!”

Even before Clinton spoke, Trump took to Twitter with a “pre-rebuttal,” warning that Clinton was winding up to “totally misrepresent” his policies. And he alleged, without details, that, in all her own foreign-policy experience – as First Lady and then as U.S. senator from New York before serving four years as Secretary of State – “she has made so many mistakes – and I mean real monsters!”

Clinton spoke in mostly measured, firm tones. But she broke into a softly mocking sing-song when mimicking Trump’s response earlier this year to the prospect of North Korea going to war with Japan, a U.S. ally.

“He said this … and I quote – ‘If they do, they do. Good luck. Enjoy yourself, folks.'”

“I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about nuclear war,” Clinton said.

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She won titters from the audience when she questioned what she called Trump’s “bizarre fascination with dictators and strong men who have no love for America.”

Recalling Trump’s past comments saying China showed strength in the Tiananmen Square massacre and giving credit to both North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin for their leadership, Clinton said: “I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants. I just wonder how anyone could be so wrong about who America’s real friends are.”

Clinton excoriated Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and his call for a ban on Muslim immigrants, plus the killing of innocent relatives of terror suspects, which woud be a war crime.

Referring to the 2011 raid by U.S. forces that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, Clinton noted: “When every second counted, our SEALS took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety.”

“Donald Trump may not get it, but that’s what honor looks like.”