Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump unprepared and unfit to serve as president in a scathing critique of the presumptive Republican nominee’s national-security stances that cast the stakes of the general election in stark terms.
The Democratic presidential front-runner and former secretary of state painted Trump as a dangerous man who wants to be the commander-in-chief responsible for decisions about war and peace, life and death.
She mocked his past statements as “dangerously incoherent” and said his policy pronouncements are “just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”
“He is not just unprepared, he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility,” Clinton said in remarks delivered in San Diego at the start of a campaign trip in California.
The Clinton campaign billed Thursday’s speech as a major address that frames the argument that she plans to make against Trump for the next five months. While she spoke in California, which holds a primary on Tuesday that likely will solidify her hold on the Democratic nomination, Clinton is also targeting independent voters and moderate Republicans in general-election swing states.
She's also getting help from other Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who said during a summit last week in Japan that the prospect of Trump being elected president has “rattled” other world leaders.
Before Clinton began speaking Trump took to Twitter to deliver a pre-emptive counter-attack, saying she would “totally misrepresent my foreign policy positions.” He used the investigation into Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state, and the RNC cited the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S.-led intervention in Libya, and North Korea's continued development of nuclear weapons to label her “a disaster” for national security.
“Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton! Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn't even look presidential!” Trump wrote on Twitter as Clinton spoke.
Clinton mixed a few broad strokes of her own positions into the speech, but mostly it was a takedown, in a mocking tone, of Trump's past statements about Islamic State, nuclear proliferation, dealing with allies, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“It's clear he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about,” she said. “This isn't reality television, this is actual reality.”
As the primary season nears its end, Clinton has attempted to find ways to effectively counter Trump's claims and positions. She's also trying to gain the initiative as the real-estate developer and TV personality's free-wheeling campaign draws media attention.
Clinton's Democratic rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, offered a mixed assessment of her speech.
“I agree with Secretary Clinton that Donald Trump's foreign policy ideas are incredibly reckless and irresponsible,” Sanders said in a statement. “But when it comes to foreign policy, we cannot forget that Secretary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history, and that she has been a proponent of regime change, as in Libya, without thinking through the consequences.”
Clinton's focus, by contrast, has been squarely on Trump. On Tuesday, she assailed him for following through on his promise to give millions of dollars to veterans groups only after being pressed by a journalist. On Wednesday, she turned her attention to Trump University, a for-profit education company that faces several lawsuits. Pointing to recently unsealed depositions in one of the cases, Clinton for the first time in her campaign publicly called Trump a “fraud” and warned that “he is trying to scam America the way he scammed all those people at Trump U.”
Clinton arrived in California on Thursday for five days of campaigning ahead of the state’s June 7 primary. Polling in the state shows she's deadlocked with Sanders, leading him by just two points, 49 percent to 47 percent, among likely voters, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll conducted May 29-31.
California is one of six states holding contests on June 7. Clinton may surpass the 2,383 delegates needed to win the nomination when polls close Tuesday in New Jersey, though Sanders has signaled that he won’t accept the mix of pledged and superdelegates as winning the nomination and will continue to push Clinton-backing superdelegates to change their allegiances.
—With assistance from Angela Greiling Keane.