Hillary Clinton finds new weapon against Donald Trump: mockery

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·Senior National Affairs Reporter
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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — At a campaign rally Friday morning in Culver City, actress Debra Messing introduced Hillary Clinton as tough, a champion for women’s rights, and a fighter.

But then Messing threw out another adjective to describe the former secretary of state, one that doesn’t get used quite as often.

“She is also funny,” Messing told the crowd of a few hundred supporters.

Clinton has been criticized for seeming robotic and scripted on the stump, especially compared to her GOP rival Donald Trump, a former reality TV star and a natural on camera. But since her arrival in California ahead of Tuesday’s primary, Clinton has debuted a more lighthearted, even humorous stance on the trail as she hones a new line of attack against Trump. She even seems to be enjoying herself.

The shift in tone began with her speech Thursday in San Diego lambasting Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements. In the past, Clinton has soberly called Trump a “loose cannon” and warned about the danger of having him as commander in chief. But on Thursday, she blended that concern with wry satire, dryly stating Trump’s past positions on various foreign policy issues, one by one, as the audience laughed.

“He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has — quote — ‘a very good brain,’” she said as the crowd laughed. “He also said, ‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.’ You know what? I don’t believe him.”

She mocked Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience. “There’s no risk of people losing their lives if you blow up a golf-course deal,” she said to more laughter. At another point, she said she’d “leave it to the psychiatrists” to sort out Trump’s “affection for tyrants.”

At three campaign stops Friday, her supporters cheered when she mentioned Thursday’s speech. “Yesterday I had the opportunity in San Diego to just repeat what Donald Trump has said,” Clinton said to applause at a women’s organizing event in Culver City. “I didn’t make any of that up. I mean, it would be hard to make that up. By the end of working on that speech, even I was saying, ‘Did he really say all of this?’”

At her next stop in Westminster, Clinton appeared to loosen up on the stump even more. She riffed on Trump University, calling it “Trump U” as the crowd laughed, because it sounded like an expletive. “That doesn’t sound appropriate, does it,” Clinton said, laughing. “I am going to use that more. Because if he gets anywhere near the White House, you know what he is going to do? He is going to Trump U.”

Clinton also poked fun at herself during the brief speech, saying she had “laid out plans” to deal with issues, unlike her rival. “You know, some people make fun of me. They say, ‘Oh there she goes, more plans,’” she said as the crowd laughed. “I know it’s not the most exciting thing, right?” But she added: “I believe elections should actually be about issues.”

At the Culver City event, Clinton again interrupted herself while talking about closing the gender wage gap and fighting for women’s reproductive rights, saying that some people have pointed out her support for these issues as if they are new: “People keep discovering me. I’m like an archaeological dig.”

At Clinton’s final stop in San Bernardino, the candidate said she was “appalled” at Trump’s attacks on a Mexican-American judge presiding over civil suits targeting Trump University. “I’ve probably been criticized — just conservatively, you know, let me say — a lot,” she said as the audience laughed. “But if it’s about politics … that’s totally fair.”

On Thursday, Trump dismissed Clinton’s “teleprompter speech” and said she had “made things up.” At a rally in Redding, Calif., on Friday, he again criticized Clinton’s lack of spontaneity.

“Hillary Clinton is a weak person,” he told his supporters in the blistering heat. “Hillary Clinton is totally scripted.”

But if Friday is any indication, she may finally be rewriting the script and winning points for it.

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