Bill Clinton delivers a sharp message to Donald Trump and his base

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Hunter Walker
·White House Correspondent
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Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Hillary Clinton, at Edison High School in Edison, N.J., on May 27, 2016. (Photo: Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch/IPX)
Former President Bill Clinton campaigns for his wife, Hillary Clinton, at Edison High School in Edison, N.J., on May 27, 2016. (Photo: Dennis Van Tine/MediaPunch/IPX)

CRANFORD, N.J. — President Bill Clinton dismissed presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s policies as “divisive” and ineffective at a Wednesday campaign event for his wife, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Speaking at Union County College, Bill Clinton also said “white, non-college-educated Americans” who are widely seen as a core part of Trump’s base “need to be brought along to the future.”

Clinton began making his case by identifying “a reason why this has been such a crazy political year.”

“All over the world there is stagnant economic growth, stagnant incomes, rising inequality and deep arguments over what to do about our increasing diversity,” Clinton said.

This year’s election has delivered many surprises, including Trump’s emergence from the GOP field. Clinton’s wife, who was initially viewed as the inevitable Democratic nominee, has also faced an unexpectedly strong primary challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Though Clinton attributed these unexpected results to tension and difficult economic realities in his speech, he argued that America remains “the best positioned country for the future.” He also presented a prescription for how to take advantage of that positioning.

“To do it, we have to build a future that is inclusive — not divisive — a future which has not only higher incomes but more upward mobility and less inequality, and one which recognizes our diversity because its the only way to honor our common humanity,” Clinton said.

Clinton criticized two of the most controversial elements of Trump’s platform: building a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexican border, and barring Muslim tourists and immigrants from entering the country. Though he took care not to name Trump, Clinton argued that these policies are misguided.

“We have been told over and over again in this election we ought to build a wall against Mexico, we ought to stop the Muslims from coming in, we want to do all this stuff,” Clinton said as the crowd booed Trump’s ideas. “Let me tell you, all those people who want to do that — and one in particular — forget what the real security challenges we face are.”

Clinton went on to cite the December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., as proof that fortified borders and immigration bans can’t prevent terrorism. In the San Bernardino attack, a married couple opened fire at a holiday party for county workers, leaving 14 people dead and 22 injured. Clinton blamed online content for radicalizing the shooters.

“The last serious terrorist incident in the United States occurred in San Bernardino, Calif. Those people were converted over the internet,” Clinton said. “You can build all the walls you want. You can build them all across Canada; they got a bunch of foreigners in Canada. You could build a seawall in the Atlantic and a seawall in the Pacific. …. And then you could send the Navy to the Gulf of Mexico to block anybody else, and put all the planes in the Air Force up. You could not keep out the social media.”

Clinton said he is “really proud” his wife has argued “we need all people of all faiths, including Muslims who love freedom and hate terror, to help us improve the American idea.” He went on to take a shot at Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“She’s got the best vision: an inclusive, nondivisive America — an America that is oriented towards our future greatness, not trying to reclaim a past that is past and gone,” Clinton said, adding, “And it wasn’t so great for some people anyway. Somebody said they’re going to make America great again. They need to talk to the people for whom it wasn’t so great.”

Clinton suggested that “white, non-college educated Americans” are the ones who want to “reclaim” the past. That group is widely seen as a crucial part of Trump’s base of support.

“We all need to recognize that white, non-college-educated Americans have seen great drops in their income, have seen great increases in their unemployment rate, have seen drops in their life expectancy, and they need to be brought along to the future. But they can’t live under the illusion that you can reclaim a past which is just that — past. This country is always about the future,” Clinton said.

After his speech, Clinton greeted supporters along a rope line. Yahoo News asked if he read a column that was published by one of his former advisers, Doug Schoen, in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday evening. Clinton said he had not seen Schoen’s article. In his column, Schoen argued “there is now more than a theoretical chance that Hillary Clinton may not be the Democratic nominee for president.”

It would be highly improbable for Sanders to perform well enough in the final June 7 state primaries to overcome Hillary Clinton’s pledged delegate lead. However, Schoen argued that a win by Sanders in California could lead delegates to back rule changes at the Democratic convention that would allow another nominee to emerge. The former president did not respond as Yahoo News explained the article to him. He also ignored a question from another reporter about whether Hillary Clinton could indeed lose in California.

The RealClearPolitics poll average now shows Clinton with a more than 8-point lead over Sanders in the Golden State. On Tuesday, in addition to California, Democrats will vote in five other states, including New Jersey. The day’s contests are the final ones on the Democratic calendar other than the June 14 District of Columbia primary.