Looking past rival Bernie Sanders to the general election, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton on Thursday will denounce GOP nominee Donald Trump’s foreign policy ideas and bluntly declare him “simply unfit” to lead the country in a dangerous world.
The former secretary of state will “lay out in stark terms” how the reality TV star is “fundamentally unqualified to be commander in chief” senior Clinton foreign policy aide Jake Sullivan told Yahoo News by telephone.
“She will call Donald Trump out by name” and offer “a systematic and comprehensive critique of the alarming and bankrupt foreign policy ideas that Donald Trump has put forward,” Sullivan said. “She will not be pulling any punches.”
Clinton will not, however, make a point-by-point defense of her handling of world affairs as secretary of state, or present specific policy ideas, Sullivan said.
The Washington Post first reported plans for what Clinton’s campaign is billing as “a major address.” She will speak in San Diego at 11:30 a.m. local time.
Her remarks will come one day after President Obama — his sleeves rolled up and droppin’ his g’s like any campaignin’ politician — talked up his role in the recovery from the Great Recession of 2008 and declared Republicans unfit stewards of the economy.
Obama urged voters to pick Democrats in November “if what you really care about in this election is your pocketbook, if what you’re concerned about is who will look out for the interests of working people and [who will] grow the middle class.”
The unusual one-two punch on foreign and domestic policy issues most on voters’ minds suggested an attempt to shift the 2016 race to general election terrain as Clinton hopes to essentially lock up the Democratic nomination next week.
The Obama White House and Clinton’s campaign are known to plot communications strategy regularly. And the incumbent has made it no secret that he sees his former secretary of state as a better political heir than Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But aides to Obama and Clinton said privately that the two camps had not coordinated the timing of the two events.
Republicans who say the national recovery has been sluggish and has failed to reach many middle-class Americans have argued that electing Clinton would be tantamount to giving Obama a third term. The president’s chief spokesman seemed to welcome the idea.
“If we want to acknowledge the progress that our country has made in the last seven years, then we have to go back and look to examine what policies made this progress possible,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
Republicans hit back.
“Hillary Clinton is running on four more years of Obamanomics, so the president is trying to convince voters his record of weak growth, stagnant wages, and a shrinking middle class is really a success story,” Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said in a statement.
On Thursday, it’ll be Clinton’s turn to take on the GOP and its presumptive nominee.
Democrats have taken a clip-and-save approach until now to Trump’s eyebrow-raising remarks on national security, including his suggestions that the United States resume using torture, pull back from what he called the “obsolete” NATO alliance, encourage key allies like Japan to develop nuclear weapons programs, build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and freeze Muslim immigration to the United States.
Clinton will highlight all of those proposals, Sullivan said, in arguing that a President Trump would leave the United States “less safe and frankly less true to ourselves.”
The former top U.S. diplomat is not expected to directly rebut some of the tougher criticisms of her foreign policy ideas, including her strong support for the intervention in Libya. Obama himself now admits that Washington should have had a better plan for filling the power vacuum left by the ouster of strongman Moammar Gadhafi, which helped the so-called Islamic State get a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean nation. She has also taken heat for leading the reset in Russian relations, which largely achieved its goals but collapsed once Vladimir Putin returned to power in Moscow. The GOP has accused the administration of failing to contain the chaos unleashed by the Arab Spring movement that has toppled governments in the Middle East and indirectly fed the rise of the Islamic State. And Republicans have assailed her judgment in using a private email server for her official State Department correspondence. The FBI is investigating whether the arrangement imperiled national security.
Clinton has walked a delicate balance in her primary battle with Sanders, emphasizing her foreign policy experience as secretary of state while trying to fend off his criticisms of her 2002 vote to authorize then president George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. She has rallied essentially the entire foreign policy establishment of the Democratic Party behind her campaign.
Sanders, whose path to the nomination is an exceedingly narrow one, has connected with Democrats who see the economy as rigged to benefit the wealthy, and has also pulled in young voters struggling with crushing student loans.
Apart from citing his own vote against the invasion of Iraq, he has had less to say about foreign policy, and his grasp of the issues has at times has seemed uncertain.
Even so, Clinton herself has sometimes shown surprising weakness on the issue, notably at the November 2015 Democratic debate in Des Moines, Iowa.
Recent public opinion polls have given Clinton the edge on foreign policy. A Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted in mid-May, showed her leading Trump 47 percent to 44 percent on which candidate would better handle terrorism, and her advantage widened, 55 percent to 36 percent, on which candidate would better handle an international crisis.