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.