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Hillary Clinton Previews Her Economic Case Against Donald Trump

Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Delivers Speech On Foreign PolicyPresidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Delivers Speech On Foreign Policy
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, delivers a national security speech at Balboa Park in San Diego, CaliforniaBloomberg via Getty Images

Hillary Clinton just eviscerated Donald Trump, arguing that the Republican nominee would prove as risky at home as abroad.

In what was promoted as a foreign policy address, the likely Democratic nominee methodically dismantled the character, temperament, and worldview of her Republican rival. The speech was Clinton’s most comprehensive argument against Trump to date. It previewed both the substance and tenor of the case that will likely organize her campaign: Trump, she said, is dangerously unfit for the office, a point she pressed with derisive humor.

And while Clinton’s talk lived up to its billing by offering a world tour of problem spots she said Trump could blow up if he becomes commander-in-chief, she studded it with barbs about his economic proposals as well. She’ll no doubt recycle and refine those attacks as she makes a more concerted focus on the economy.

For one, Clinton referred to Trump’s musing last month that he could reduce U.S. debt by negotiating with creditors to accept less than they’re owed — a ploy economists said would imperil the nation’s credit by flirting with a debt default. “He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008,” she said.

Later, the Democrat launched a six-point case against Trump by contending that his domestic plans would compromise our global position:

First we need to be strong at home. That means investing in our infrastructure, education, and innovation, the fundamentals of a strong economy. We need to reduce income inequality, because our country can’t lead effectively when so many are struggling to provide the basics for their families. And we need to break down the barriers that hold Americans back, including the barriers of bigotry and discrimination. Compare that with what Trump wants to do. His economic plans would add more than $30 trillion — that’s “trillion” with a “T” — $30 trillion to our national debt over the next 20 years. He has no ideas on education, no ideas on innovation. He has a lot of ideas about who to blame but no clue about what to do. None of what Donald Trump is offering would make America stronger at home. That would make us weaker abroad.

And finally, Clinton attacked Trump’s bellicosity on free trade. The Republican has made clear he’ll be running to her left on the issue, seeking to associate her with Bill Clinton’s signing of NAFTA and knocking her for helping forge the Trans Pacific Partnership as Secretary of State before disowning it as a presidential candidate. Clinton punched back in her speech, arguing Trump’s overly aggressive approach to our trading partners would precipitate a disaster.

“Donald doesn’t see the complexity. He wants to start a trade war with China,” Clinton said. “And I understand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements; I do too. But a trade war is something very different. We went down that road in the 1930s. It made the Great Depression longer and more painful. Combine that with his comments about defaulting on our debt, and it’s not hard to see how a Trump presidency could lead to a global economic crisis.”

There’s certainly a lot more to come. The speech revealed a ruthless strategy for turning Trump’s freewheeling style against him. The billionaire has tried to remain a moving target on policy by staking out controversial positions extemporaneously and then revising or reversing himself in the face of criticism. But as Clinton demonstrated in ripping his comments on reducing the debt, she’ll happily treat his most provocative statements not as trial balloons but as stone-carved proclamations of his intent. And Trump is near daily serving up fresh material.