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Hillary Clinton’s brilliant and convincing takedown of Donald Trump

REUTERS/Mike Blake
Hillary Clinton: “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.”

Hillary Clinton’s big speech Thursday in San Diego was billed as a major foreign-policy address. It wasn’t that, although she did in passing express some of her views on foreign-policy issues and describe some aspects of her record of accomplishment as secretary of state. It was, of course, a selective self-serving list and Republicans will gladly bring up some aspects she left out. She did not, for example, bring up my own minor obsession, which I wrote about Wednesday: Her vote to authorize the Iraq War.

But the speech was hardly at all about what she has done or would do and much more about Donald Trump’s unfitness to be president. On that score, I’m pretty sure it was brilliant, thorough, convincing, hilarious and very well delivered for a candidate whose strength is not as a spellbinding orator. Nonetheless, I was spellbound by this oration and found myself wondering how it was possible that no one had done this sooner. I seem to remember several of the 99 Republican presidential candidates Trump has now outlasted trying to do some kind of takedown, but ended up taking themselves down instead.

Clinton illustrated Trump’s unfitness with plenty of references to things Trump has said and done, and sprinkled it with unflattering conclusions about what might happen to the world if a man who had said and done those things became commander-in-chief, as in:

“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 didn’t limit her critique to Trumpian qualities that relate specifically to foreign policy.

She called him, in about 30 ways, a pompous jerk, a sexist, an Islamophobe, an ignoramus, an egomaniac, a loose cannon, a spoiled brat and — I dunno, read the text (link below) of Clinton’s remarks and you can add to the list of things she called him. Plenty of things in her speech were relatively unrelated to foreign policy or were combined putdowns of Trump’s weird, engorged, self-obsessed persona with references to “the stakes of global statecraft,” as in:.

“The stakes in global statecraft are infinitely higher and more complex than in the world of luxury hotels. We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table — bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets — I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now.”

That one got a laugh, but sure enough, by the time she finished speaking, Trump had indeed tweeted:

“Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton! Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn’t even look presidential!!!”

(The error in spelling “teleprompter” is in the original. But, otherwise, a very dignified and substantive retort, bordering on presidential, methinks.)

I don’t assume that in the middle of a beautiful June afternoon enough people would watch a speech to move the needle by the time the next poll numbers come out. But I do believe that Clinton and her speechwriters and strategists are on the way to developing a toolkit of put-downs that will undermine some of Trump’s, so far, invisible shield. On the other hand, pretty much every prediction of Trump’s imminent demise has been followed by new highs for him in the polls.

In case you’d like to decide for yourself about the tools in that kit, here, via Time magazine, is the text of what Clinton said about the Donald Thursday.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Roy Everson on 06/03/2016 - 10:48 am.

    Why the delay?

    “… wondering how it was possible that no one had done this sooner”

    Mrs. Clinton can describe Trump the way he is, the way most people see him, use whatever set of unflattering adjectives you like. Many of his people identify with those same characteristics, in fact revel in their politically incorrect euphoria, and may therefore be prone to feeling insulted by her comments. She can afford to insult them.

    The deep bench of GOP candidates were unable to topple Trump because they could ill afford to insult the very Trump-like voters they’ve been courting since the days of George Wallace Democrats.

    But she and Sanders can’t do it alone. It takes a village to out the village idiot.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/04/2016 - 12:20 am.

      Gotta like it!

      “It takes a village to out the village idiot.”

      Great way to put it . . . Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/03/2016 - 11:20 am.

    Not sure

    An oratorical masterpiece of a speech from Hillary Clinton shouldn’t be necessary. Donald Trump is a child – a spoiled, wealthy child, but a child, nonetheless – with all the intellectual and realpolitik shortcomings that are part and parcel of being a child. The petulance, name-calling, misspelling, ignorance of most of the world outside his own tiny community of hotel and casino developers, and a long list of other shortcomings go along with the “not-knowing” that accompanies being a child. To say he should not have the nuclear codes is not – or at least should not be – anything more than a statement of reason. I share Eric’s wonder that something like Hillary’s speech wasn’t done by one of the several other purported grownups in the room(s) for the Republican debates. That none of those people did so does not reflect well on the Republican Party, nor does Paul Ryan’s announcement, reluctant though it might be, that he’ll be voting for Trump. A subset of angry children should vote for Trump. Most adults should find another candidate to support.

  3. Submitted by Dan Berg on 06/03/2016 - 11:36 am.

    True but…

    Clinton stated the truth which is something that for Trump is almost always insulting. The problem is that Trump is playing politics in a way that has in many ways made him immune to these types of attacks. This is an insider against outsider battle and while Clinton can point out all of the obvious flaws in Trump’s personality and ideas it also improves his credentials as the outsider, the non-proffesional, the populist. Meanwhile Trump can bring up plenty of bad ideas and character flaws from the Clintons as well and by doing so damages her brand as an expert with good decision making ability but she will never get the benefit of being anything other than part of the political elite.

  4. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/03/2016 - 12:32 pm.

    Iraq War Resolution

    I know this is a fruitless endeavor; but, the Iraq war vote used to club over the head any and all who supported it did not declare or commence war against Iraq.

    In the wake of the 911 attacks GWB asked for permission to follow his best instincts on how to apply military force in the middle east against Iraq and any other country believed to support terrorism.

    If someone voted YES they could attribute their vote to two things, either individually or together:

    1. They wanted immediate military action in Iraq
    2. They deemed it correct to provide the President the power to act as he saw fit to protect the country after 911.

    It can be easily argued that supporting #2 does not automatically mean supporting #1. In retrospect GWB should have used the ability to go to war as the means to not have to have gone to war.

    The text of the authorization:


    (a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–
    (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
    (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.

    • Submitted by C.S. Senne on 06/03/2016 - 06:20 pm.

      Thanks for the reality check. Many of the commenters from the “Hillary Hawk” article yesterday need to re-read this. And I’m wondering where the many commenters from yesterday are today. Crickets! Future President Hillary Clinton masterfully kicked Donald Trump’s butt across the airwaves yesterday, sending the orange man into “presidential” paroxysms of spittle-laced speech today. No comments on the Trumpian Temperament?

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/03/2016 - 09:02 pm.

      True that but. . .

      Anyone who voted for this obscene resolution deserves to be clubbed over the head with it. Over and over and over.

      Let’s be clear. The exclusive authority to declare is vested by the U.S. Constitution in Congress. The “authorization for use” (AOF) quoted was a transparent evasion of that by all who participated in that vote. There were no illusions about what the AOF was for. It was the clearance for the George W. Bush administration to commence a War against a sovereign foreign power that had no committed no aggressive act against the US or any of its allies. It was a War of Aggression: the very kind of War the USA so self-righteously denounced Germany for commencing in 1914. Iraq had no connection to the 9/11 attacks, though as we all know, they proponents tried very, very hard to convince people it did, even to the point of lying. Or worse. (Only leaders of other countries commit War crimes).

      Unlike the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which was a “camel’s nose under the tent” type of resolution, no one who actually did oppose the Iraq War and said so publicly will forget the mood of the country as the Bush Administration claimed “bipartisan support” for its evil act. Hillary’s vote in support of this AOF sticks in Eric’s craw and it sticks in mine too.

  5. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 06/03/2016 - 01:59 pm.


    The most deft remark was calling Trump “thin skinned.” If we responds, he proves her point, if he doesn’t it just sits there unchallenged. Apparently Trump has no surrogates willing to defend him either.

    • Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 06/03/2016 - 09:37 pm.

      What was best was how Trump, in the most un-presidential way possible, criticized Clinton for being un-presidential.

      Her polite (more or less) mocking of Trump is just right. His reaction only reinforces her point. He can’t sit there unchallenged any more than a zebra can change it’s stripes.

  6. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/03/2016 - 11:44 pm.

    This was the way to go after Trump

    I hope all Democratic candidates were listening. This is the way to go after Trump, not on some policy grounds he’ll lie about later, but on his temperament. She’s essentially saying you might disagree with me on policy grounds, but at least I’m rational, and you can trust me to avoid any catastrophes if I’m the one with the nuclear button. How does he argue against being a thin-skinned brat who thinks everything is about his ego? Every other Democrat needs to hang Trump around their Republican opponent’s neck like the proverbial albatross. Make them support Trump or annoy Republican voters by disavowing their nominee.

  7. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 06/04/2016 - 08:34 am.


    …more like a political and personal catharsis for the lady in waiting…as Trump comes back I assume,with more of the same?

    And the candidates keep on mudslinging?

    Call it a more gently, a mere pillow fight between two unacceptable ego-driven candidates trying to ensure their right to own a private set of keys to the White House and let the people watch … round 2,3; whatever?

    Applause, applause? Can’t quite see the enthusiasm as the two put on their personal boxing gloves and we get to watch…wow

  8. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/04/2016 - 08:42 pm.

    Let’s save the “takedown” headline

    For a stage where the two candidates engage each other. One person making a statement about another without the other person present to debate or refute statements is easy. Who can’t defeat an empty seat?

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/05/2016 - 12:20 am.

      Sure Tom

      Let’s save that for later. What happened Thursday doesn’t count and everyone should just forget about it because Don wasn’t there and we all know the only words that count are the ones spoken (or tweeted or said to the press) when those communicating them are in the same room and on the same channel you and everyone else is tuned into.

      Kind of like these words here . . . They don’t really count either because neither candidate has had a chance to agree with or refute what you just said because you and they weren’t talking to each other about them in the same place at the same time where you were.


      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/07/2016 - 10:51 pm.

        Just looking for some moderation in the superlatives

        The author needs to save some adoration for the Presidential debates this fall…

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/05/2016 - 10:41 pm.

      Isn’t that mostly

      what Trumpf has done?
      Campaign by tweets (or twits as the case may be).

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/07/2016 - 10:50 pm.


        You saw some of the many Republican debates earlier in the year, the ratings were astounding compared to the Democratic debates which actually helped choose our next President. Those free-for-alls that you didn’t notice weren’t on Twitter. Certainly not brilliant or convincing I might add.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/06/2016 - 10:56 am.

      Waiting for Engagement

      And that will happen . . . when, do you think? It was awfully easy for him to back out of his debate with Bernie Sanders, even after the absurd conditions Trump tacked on to his initial challenge (memo to bullies everywhere: when someone calls your bluff, you just look sad when you back down). Do you think he will ever agree to a face-to-face debate with Hillary Clinton?

      I’ve already read one pundit who thinks there is a real chance Trump will withdraw his candidacy before the election. He will see his poll numbers tanking yet further, and will not want to go down in history as a “loser.” That seems a little far-fetched to me, but, as we hear on a daily basis, this is not a normal election year.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 06/06/2016 - 01:01 pm.

        Trump will be anxious to debate Clinton because he’s going to be behind and looking for an opening. Trump, regardless of what happens in November, will (rightly to some extent) be able to declare himself a “winner” from the standpoint of making the most surprising run to a major party’s nomination in modern history.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/06/2016 - 12:37 pm.

      Empty Seats

      Who can’t defeat an empty seat? Well, apparently the GOP. Have people already forgotten Clint Eastwood’s little speech? For those who need a refresher, here’s the link.

  9. Submitted by Craig Johnson on 06/05/2016 - 10:23 am.

    Paying attention to history keeps the train on the track

    I can’t help but recall the disinformation that flowed from the Bush White House regarding the Iraq War. The possession of nuclear weapons. The assertion that we have to declare and take action in the late winter of 2003 as we certainly do not want to fight there in the summer. (A statement by Donald Rumsfeld) or Dick Cheney litany of amoral diatribes of hate that continue to this date. Lets not forget Condoleezza Rice and her head bobbing alignment of policy statements that she later recanted.

    Bush, as a weak leader had assembled a team of war mongers that believed that the Bush Administration would appear strong and overturn the blind eye to negative reputation of the intelligence failure of 9/11. All they had to do is run a six week long exercise in the Middle East. Hoo-rah my friend, they bamboozled congress and secured an authorization.

    Our six week exercised asserted in March of 2003 and was finally ended in 2011. An estimated 600,000 died. Salaam was gone. An estimated 1.1 Trillion Dollars was down the tube. Our tenuous position in the Middle East was abandoned.

    But was Hillary Clinton the responsible party? She did vote for the authorization. True. But we must not forget that the Administration laundry list of apocalypse causing events put forth by the team of misanthropes in the White House was simply a list of lies. They controlled the Armed Forces, the CIA and all the ancillary intelligence gathering apparatus, they put for a lie that the Senate accepted.

    Our leadership simply must not lie to the American People. History will never accept a lie as an expedient necessity.

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