By Valerie Vande Panne
WELLESLEY, Mass. (Reuters) - Hillary Clinton assailed the man who beat her to the White House, slamming as "unimaginable cruelty" President Donald Trump's proposal to cut $3.6 trillion in government spending over the next decade in a speech on Friday.
The defeated Democratic candidate did not name the Republican president in her remarks to the graduating class at her alma mater, Wellesley College. But she took several veiled swipes at the businessman-turned-politician, whose budget proposal earlier this week proposed sharp cuts in programs for healthcare and food assistance.
"Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington. It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us," Clinton told a crowd at the all-women's college, located in Boston's suburbs.
"It grossly underfunds public education, mental health and even efforts to combat the opioid epidemic."
White House officials have described the proposed budget as providing tax cuts that they say would stimulate economic growth and create more private-sector jobs. As with all presidential budget proposals, the proposal was more of a wishlist that is unlikely to be approved in its current form by Congress.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, warned against an erosion of accepted standards of truth in U.S. public discourse, and also appeared to be attacking Trump on this issue.
"You are graduating a time when there is a full-fledged assault on truth and reason. Just log on to social media for 10 seconds, it will hit you right in the face," she said, citing hoax online reports that her campaign was tied to a Washington pizzeria that operated a child sex ring.
"When people in power invent their own facts and attack those who question them, it can mark the beginning of the end of a free society," Clinton said. "This is not hyperbole, it is what authoritarian regimes throughout history have done."
She also urged graduates of the liberal-leaning school, which is located in one of the most Democratic states in the country, not to retreat into their own partisan echo chambers, saying, "your learning, listening and serving should include people who don't agree with you politically."
Clinton has had a long public career since graduating in 1969 from Wellesley. She was first lady during her husband Bill Clinton's two terms in the White House and was later elected to the U.S. Senate representing New York state. She made an unsuccessful presidential run in 2008 before serving as the country's top diplomat during President Barack Obama's first term.
Clinton, 69, has gradually returned to the public eye since her upset November defeat, saying that she will not run for office again but will serve as an activist citizen.
(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry)