Clinton's Big National Security Speech: Trump Unfit in Every Way to Lead and Would Take America to War

Hillary Clinton unleashed her most devastating takedown of Donald Trump on Thursday during a national security speech, saying he is intellectually bankrupt and mentally unfit to be commander in chief, and if elected would endanger America’s safety and security.

The 35-minute speech, given in San Diego before an audience filled with military service members and their families, outlined how Trump’s campaign pronouncements and threats would undermine and endanger virtually every aspect of American national security and embolden America’s enemies abroad, whether nuclear weapon-possessing North Korea or ISIL.

Clinton never once referenced her competitor for the Democratic nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, who disagrees with some of her positions (notably her support for a no-fly zone in Syria’s civil war), but instead focused on taking apart Trump while citing her experience as a global leader. Both Democrats are virtually tied ahead of the California primary on Tuesday.      

“We’re choosing our next commander-in-chief, the person we count on to decide questions of war and peace, life and death,” Clinton began, then turning to Trump. “And like many across our country and around the world, I believe the person the Republicans have nominated for president cannot do the job.”

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different. They are dangerously incoherent. They are not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies,” she continued. “He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility. 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.”

Clinton’s speech was filled with such vivid characterizations. She went on to recite a litany of Trump’s pronouncements—countries should have more nuclear weapons; the U.S. should abandon NATO; the U.S. should default on its debt; the military should use torture and kill families of suspected terrorists; and climate change is a Chinese hoax. She then discussed the challenges the next president must face, contrasting what she would do while quoting Trump and then ridiculing his statements and taunts.

“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. He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia,” Clinton said soberly. “To top it off, he believes America is weak; an embarrassment. He called our military a disaster. He said we are—and I quote—a 'third-world country.' And he’s been saying things like that for decades. Those are the words, my friends, of someone who doesn’t understand America or the world.”

Clinton’s assault, repeatedly using Trump's own words against him, was the most ferocious of the 2016 campaign thus far. It easily exceeded anything the Republicans who lost the 2016 nomination threw at Trump.

Clinton spent most of the address focusing on the “need to embrace all the tools of American power, especially diplomacy and development, to be on the front lines solving problems before they threaten us at home.”

“The world must understand that the United States will act decisively if necessary, including with military action, to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In particular, Israel’s security is non-negotiable,” she said, in her most hawkish utterance. “But there is no question that the world and the United States, we are safer now than we were before this [Iranian nuclear] agreement. And we accomplished it without firing a single shot, dropping a single bomb or putting a single American soldier in harm’s way.”

After noting that Trump opposed the Iran deal, Clinton said he has not offered any alternative because “he doesn’t have answers.” She said, “Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about Iran or its nuclear program. Ask him. It’ll become very clear, very quickly. There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course deal.”

Clinton said the U.S. has to be firm with its rivals—mainly China and Russia—and said Trump doesn’t “see the complexity” in dealing with adversaries who share interests on some issues and oppose the U.S. on others.

She also attacked his “affection for tyrants.”

“I have to say, I don’t understand Donald’s bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America,” she said. “He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength. He said, 'You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit' for taking over North Korea, something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie. And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”

When it came to ISIL, Clinton said Trump would endanger Americans. “So we can’t be certain which of these things he would do,” she said, citing his previous comments. “But we can be certain that he’s capable of doing any or all of them. Letting [ISIL] run wild. Launching a nuclear attack. Starting a ground war. These are all distinct possibilities with Donald Trump in charge.”

Ultimately, Clinton said Trump’s view, that America is no longer a great country and is a weak force in world affairs, is completely upside down.

“This election is a choice between two very different visions of America,” she concluded. “One that’s angry, afraid and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline. The other is hopeful, generous and confident in the knowledge that America is great—just like we always have been. Let’s resolve that we can be greater still. That is what I believe.”

Meanwhile, Sanders’ Campaign Continues

While Clinton gave a national security speech, the fight for the Democratic nomination continued elsewhere in California. In Oakland, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who resigned as Democratic National Committee vice-chair to support Bernie Sanders, said the focus on Trump—in the speech and press coverage—was obscuring the major differences between the two contenders on national security and foreign policy issues.

“This is the problem of both the media and the conversations that are occurring,” Gabbard said, speaking at the National Nurses United union headquarters. “They are being distracted by a lot of the noise, rather than focusing on the real issues at stake that affect our families.”

Gabbard, an Army National Guard veteran, said she could speak to “one area where there remains a clear contrast between Sanders and Clinton, and that is with regard to a no-fly zone in Syria. This is something that Hillary has time and time again has advocated for, throughout this campaign, without fully speaking through what impact that action would have on our country and what it would cost. Senator Sanders has spoken about why he is opposed to a no-fly zone, a position that he shares with President Obama, and well as a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Because they recognize that a no-fly zone would cost us, the United States, billions and billions of dollars, would require tens, if not hundreds of thousands of ground troops, as well as a massive U.S. air presence to enforce it … The very first step that you would need to take to implement a no-fly zone is a bombing of Russian and Syrian anti-aircraft defense systems. This would pit us, the United States, very directly into conflict, a violent conflict with Russia, another nuclear power.”

“Without hearing what she [Clinton] spoke about, I would think in a foreign policy speech, for someone who would like to be our commander-in-chief, this is a very direct issue that needs to be addressed, given the disastrous consequences such an action would have.”

Actually, Clinton did not mention the no-fly zone issue in her speech. There were other big differences between the Democratic contenders, Gabbard said, adding that informing voters of those distinctions is why she resigned as DNC vice-chair.

“I feel it’s important to have a commander-in-chief who understands and values the cost of war,” she said. “How critical and important those decisions are, that a commander-in-chief makes, about when and where military action may be necessary to keep the American people safe, but having the courage and strength and leadership to make those decisions when not to use military power.”

“`Unfortunately, this is an issue that has not been talked about often enough in this election cycle. Nor has it been talked about—connecting the cost of war directly with our critical domestic needs here at home,” Gabbard said. “Connecting the fact that when we spend trillions of dollars, as we have for over a decade now, on these interventionist wars, it directly negatively impacts our ability to invest in infrastructure, community, health care, education, economy, in our communities here at home.”

“The fact of the matter is being commander-in-chief is the most important responsibility a president has,” Gabbard said, “and this issue is directly connected to every single critical domestic need and issue that needs to be addressed here at home. You can’t separate the two, and you can’t stand and credibly say that our country can afford to continue down this interventionist and counterproductive war path and also have the resources that we need to invest here at home.”


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