CINCINNATI (AP) — Portraying a vote for her as a patriotic act, Hillary Clinton made a vigorous appeal to Republican voters Wednesday, arguing that she would best uphold American values, care for the military and protect national security interests.
At the American Legion's annual convention in Cincinnati, the Democratic presidential nominee called the United States an "exceptional nation," and accused Republican rival Donald Trump of thinking that approach is "insulting to the rest of the world."
"When we say America is exceptional, it doesn't mean that people from other places don't feel deep national pride just like we do," Clinton said. "It means that we recognize America's unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and opportunity."
She said America must be a leader in the world, "because when America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum."
The speech came as Trump made a last-minute trip to Mexico hours before he was to deliver a long-expected immigration speech. Clinton questioned the move, saying it "takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours."
Clinton, who has an edge in many state and national polls, has been aggressively courting Republicans and independents who won't vote for Trump but are still discomfited by her campaign.
She stressed to the American Legion her experience on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as secretary of state and noted her role in advising President Barack Obama on the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, saying she was "deeply honored" to take part.
The speech was touted as one that would emphasize "American exceptionalism," an idea that the U.S., as an "exceptional" world citizen, has a moral obligation to advance democracy in the world rather than imposing it against another country's will. The speech largely hewed to the theme of a country with a strong military and one that cares for its veterans — red meat to the American Legion audience.
Offering insight into her foreign policy, Clinton said "we can't cozy up to dictators, we have to stand up to them. We can't contain ISIS, we must defeat them and we will."
Clinton promised to invest in the military and support veterans, pledging not to privatize the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She said the United States must modernize the military and embrace new tactics, noting that the country should "treat cyberattacks just like any other attacks" and respond through economic, diplomatic and military means.
Emphasizing her respect for service, Clinton noted her work with Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, and said she would never insult prisoners of war or families of soldiers killed in combat, as Trump has.
More than once, Clinton explicitly called on Republicans to get on board — both to support her plans and to defeat Trump.
"I hope you will join the growing number of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents — who are supporting our vision for the kind of future we want for our country," Clinton said. "It truly is about who has the experience and temperament to serve as president and commander in chief."
Trump has pledged to "Make America Great Again" and restore the country to a time when, in his view, the U.S. was more prosperous and full of opportunity. Responding to Clinton's remarks, Matt Miller, director of Veterans for Trump, said in a statement that Clinton "is fundamentally unequipped to further the national security interests of the United States and stand up for our veterans."
Emphasizing her GOP support, Clinton's campaign rolled out another Republican endorsement Wednesday, that of James Clad, former deputy assistant secretary of defense under President George W. Bush.
Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.