With one eye on an ascendent Donald Trump and the other on Europe, still reeling from this week’s terror attack, Hillary Clinton offered a firm defense of internationalism and American leadership Wednesday. The Democratic front-runner said the U.S. is the only country that can rally the world to defeat ISIS and stand up to Russia and China.
At a hastily arranged speech on the campus of Stanford University, Clinton leaned on her personal experience as secretary of state and a senator from New York during September 11, to reject Trumpism while projecting her own vision of strength.
Trump has been advocating an “America first” unilateralism that his advisers proudly say is un-nuanced, representing the way an “‘average Joe’ thinks about the world.” That makes him a near perfect foil for Clinton, who has devoted the entire week to pummeling Trump’s credentials to be commander-in-chief.
Her speech Wednesday, and the drumbeat of attacks starting even before the Brussels terror attack, offer a blueprint of how Clinton plans to engage her likely opponent in the general election, with near-constant offenses on substantive issues where she believes she can run circles around the former reality TV star.
“Slogans aren’t a strategy; loose cannons tend to misfire,” Clinton said. “If Mr. Trump gets his way, it will be like Christmas in the Kremlin. It will make America less safe and the world more dangerous.”
While Trump has called for pulling back from global entanglements, Clinton said Beijing and Moscow know “our global network of alliances is a significant strategic advantage they can’t match.”
“Only the United States can mobilize action on a global scale,” Clinton said.
On terrorism, Clinton suggested Trump is prone to panic and paranoia. “Throughout our history, we have stared into the face of evil and refused to blink,” she said. “Walls will not protect us from this threat. We cannot contain ISIS. We must defeat ISIS.”
Turning to Sen. Ted Cruz, Clinton said that his call for carpet bombing (when he likely meant strategic bombing), “makes you sound like you’re in over your head.”
On his call for patrolling Muslim neighborhoods, Clinton quoted New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who recently said Cruz “doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”
With a nod to her location in Silicon Valley, which has been closely tracking Apple’s dispute with the FBI, Clinton reiterated her insistence that the tech sector play a bigger role in stopping terrorism. “There may be no quick and magic fix,” she said, but she called for an “encryption commission” to get the government and the tech community to stop viewing each other as adversaries.
“How high the does the wall have to be to keep the internet out?” she asked, again jabbing Trump.
Clinton’s can be a tough sell, as even her allies acknowledge, since Americans are fearful and eager for solutions where there may be none. She seemed to acknowledge the vegetable-like appeal of her message invoking former Secretary of State George Schultz maxim that foreign policy is like gardening: “Slow, steady work,” she said, that only pays off over time.
Trump was quick with a clap-back. “Just watched Hillary deliver a prepackaged speech on terror. She’s been in office fighting terror for 20 years – and look where we are!” he said.
One name almost entirely absent from Clinton’s speech was Obama. While she’s generally called for continuing the president’s legacy, foreign policy is the issue where they’ve diverged the most, and Clinton seems to favor a more muscular U.S. on the world stage.
Clinton also spoke almost directly to Europe, making specific recommendations for improving its Coast Guard and information systems. It’s easier for the U.S. to get flight manifests from E.U. countries than for E.U. nations to get them from each other, she said, noting that was thanks to agreement negotiated while she was secretary of state.