Clinton Finds Her Voice on Trump: Withering Criticism, With a Side of Mockery
Policy + Politics

Clinton Finds Her Voice on Trump: Withering Criticism, With a Side of Mockery

Carlos Barria

In perhaps the most important speech of her presidential campaign to date, Hillary Clinton on Thursday lambasted presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump for his views on foreign policy and national security, labeling them “dangerously incoherent” while claiming that electing him to the White House would be a “historic mistake” for the country.

In her first major address since Trump claimed enough delegates to become the GOP standard-bearer, the usually staid former secretary of state didn’t so much detail her own foreign policy stances as contrast her ideas with the businessman’s to make a cogent argument for why he isn’t qualified to be the next commander-in-chief.

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Speaking in San Diego, which boasts a large U.S. military footprint, Clinton hit Trump again and again, a strategy she has warmed to over the last few weeks. But she took the gloves off for Thursday’s address, lacing it with barbs that are sure to get under the real estate developer’s skin.

“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,” said Clinton, who was flanked by no less than 19 American flags.

“He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit” to sit in the Oval Office, she said, strafing Trump for his calls to, among other things, withdraw from NATO, allow more countries to develop nuclear weapons, ban Muslims from entering the county, re-negotiate trade deals and kill the families of terrorists.

“This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes,” Clinton said.

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The speech, which made no mention of Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), might have offered a glimpse of a strategy the former first lady could employ in the general election: using humor to mock Trump and his ideas.

President Obama this week seemed to hit on the same idea, using speeches in Indiana and Colorado to ridicule the billionaire’s economic and national security proposals.

Such a strategy might even work, given Trump’s short fuse and his long memory for any perceived slight. Still, Clinton would have to be careful to walk the line between poking fun at the developer and wallowing in the mud with him, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) did only to see his poll numbers drop precipitously among GOP primary voters.

Clinton hammered Trump on multiple topics, even his “bizarre fascination with dictators and strong men who have no love for America,” like Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un.

“If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin,” she said, adding she would “leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants.”

She also took on the signature issue of Trump’s candidacy, his idea to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Related: Trump Resort Loses Historic Golf Tournament — to Mexico

“We’re lucky to have two friendly neighbors on our land borders. Why would he want to make one of them an enemy?” she asked.

Clinton charged that Trump doesn’t know the “the first thing about” Iran and its nuclear program or how to effectively deal with the Islamic State.

“There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf course,” she told the audience.

Clinton also took time to assail Trump’s disposition, at one point calling him “thin-skinned and quick to anger.”

She asked the audience to imagine a President Trump taking to Twitter to attack a foreign leader who he felt slighted him

“I'm willing to bet he's writing a few [nasty tweets] right now," Clinton said -- accurately, as it turned out, since just a few minutes later the billionaire issued a critique faulting her stage skills, but not the actual substance of her remarks, on the social media network.

The billionaire is sure to criticize the speech even more in the days ahead. Even though the general election doesn’t technically start until after the party conventions in July, Clinton’s speech was the clearest indicator yet that she is trying to free herself from the shackles of the primary contest and focus her campaign’s attention on bringing down Trump.