Last week, Hillary Clinton lambasted Donald Trump in a blistering and “much anticipated foreign policy speech,” according to the media, declaring that the presumptive GOP nominee is “temperamentally unfit” to lead the world’s most powerful nation. She also contrasted her own temperament, experience, and judgment favorably with that of the bombastic billionaire.
The speech, given at San Diego’s Balboa Park, in advance of the California primary election, has been viewed as a primer on the way the presumptive Democratic nominee will attack Trump in the general election campaign. Regardless of this contention, Clinton offered no specific policy recommendations, nor did she outline a comprehensive vision for the future. She simply bashed Trump for his supposed shortcomings in what the Washington Post claimed was a tone of “contempt and mockery,” particularly rejecting Trump’s central theme that American power has slipped under Obama, and that a Trump presidency will make America great again.
It does not seem to have occurred to Mrs. Clinton that this line of attack may not be the most effective way of engaging the GOP nominee. Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state and the administration’s record generally, can and will be used against her, as this is fair game. Hillary Clinton, of all people, should think twice before claiming that others have wobbly foreign policy credentials and attacking them as temperamentally unfit to be the president of the United States.
As far as the upcoming general election campaign, Hillary Clinton will have to outline a foreign policy strategy of her own. She avoids the difficulty of presenting an affirmative program by bashing Trump, in, as was mentioned before, contemptuous and mocking tones. Mockery and contempt can work both ways, however, as Hillary Clinton well knows.
Does the Clinton campaign believe that Trump will remain silent on the soaring Clinton hypocrisy, namely the fact that someone worth $200 million will bash the 1% of high earners, while claiming herself as the genuine rags-to-riches story? Few commentators, including Bernie
Sanders, have noted Hillary giving speeches on income maldistribution while flying on private jets, staying in $2000 per night hotel suites, and wearing custom tailored designer pantsuits. There is plenty of fodder there for mockery and contempt, and even if the GOP regulars are squeamish about bashing Hillary for mysterious reasons, the Trump campaign will gleefully use the ammunition.
Interestingly enough, the Clinton campaign seems to be zeroing in on Trump’s slogan that he will “make America great again” for particular scorn. She states that America has always been great and the Obama administration has understood and reveled in this historical fact. The story does note, however, that Hillary has been handicapped somewhat with baggage from the past, notably her boss, the president, speaking dismissively of “American Exceptionalism” early in his term. A close look at the past indicates that Hillary Clinton’s husband employed a secretary of state who said that American superpower status was the source of all difficulties in the world, and that the emerging counterweights to American hegemony such as China, India, and Brazil was a good thing. Now, though, it is politically expedient to jump on the American Exceptionalism bandwagon, and Hillary Clinton, rejecting her own history, has happily climbed aboard.
As was mentioned before, the Clinton speech outlined few specifics. She did mention the general issues that might confront the next president: terrorism, Russian ambitions, Chinese and North Korean military expansion, and Middle East turbulence. These issues will indeed prove troublesome, but what in the recent past should give voters a sense that the nation will have steady leadership under Hillary Clinton? On terrorism, the Obama administration has moved to de-emphasize the problem, refusing to call a spade as such. They announced early on that they would treat terrorism as a law enforcement issue, and the president has refused to use the word “terrorism” when discussing Ft. Hood, Chattanooga, the Boston Marathon bombing and San Bernardino, among other incidents. On Russia the Obama administration tried appeasement, thinking that they would succeed where Jimmy Carter failed. They have recently waked up to the growling bear in the east, but Hillary, who stated she would “hit the reset button” on US-Russian relations, was strictly in the appeasement camp.
Considering Hillary Clinton as the person to trust when dealing with Chinese and North Korean threats is almost laughable. Bill Clinton dealt with North Korean nuclear ambitions by providing all of the materials North Korea needed to continue working on a bomb. More recently the North Koreans have openly stated that they will target Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego when they get the bomb, and the Chinese routinely refer to America as the “main enemy.” As far as Hillary’s supposed expertise on Middle Eastern questions, she will have to answer fully and completely, all questions related to Benghazi, and the Obama State Department’s role in toppling a pro-American regime in 2011.
Deeper in the story, we see Hillary Clinton at her worst. She fell back into the scripted style once again, entering the ballroom with a loudspeaker playing Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” and the carefully screened guests all waving miniature American flags. We now see a new Hillary, apparently the reincarnation of George M. Cohan, presented to the people. This appearance had so much red, white, and blue that the guests might have mistaken the event for a GOP national convention during the late, great Reagan Era. Still, a nostalgia tour is no substitute for real foreign policy, as the Trump camp will undoubtedly soon point out.