In San Diego on Thursday, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, sharply rebuked her Republican rival, Donald J. Trump, for his lack of qualifications and foreign-policy smarts. Departing from her standard and often dull stump speech, Clinton issued a brutal and, at times, clever critique of her Republican opponent. Yet, as she drew out the differences between herself and Trump, it became depressingly clear that she is offering nothing new.
Mrs. Clinton told an adoring crowd that Trump simply “cannot do the job.” Trump’s ideas, according to Clinton, “aren’t just different—they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas—just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.” In sense, Clinton—of Illinois, Arkansas, New York, and Washington, DC—was on home turf in San Diego, which plays host to some of the biggest players within the military-industrial complex. Defense contractors like BAE Systems, General Atomics, Cubic Defense, and Northrop Grumman contributed, according to one San Diego–based trade group, an estimated $24.8 billion to the local economy last year.
Clinton’s bill of indictment against Trump was not, however, totally unconvincing: Trump has made a series of reckless pronouncements in which he has indicated he would be fine with a nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia. He has proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has said he will bring back torture and “go after” the families of suspected terrorists. Clinton sarcastically mocked Trump for seeming to believe that holding a Miss Universe pageant in Moscow counts as some kind of foreign-policy credential. “This,” Clinton scolded, “isn’t reality television, it’s reality.”
All in all, devastating and formidable. Yet problems arise when Clinton rolls out the charge that Trump is “temperamentally unfit” for office. Perhaps he is. But her record also raises serious questions of judgment. And here a consideration of Secretary Clinton’s record in office is in order. New York Times reporter Mark Landler recounts in his recently released book Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power that on nearly every major foreign-policy decision that Clinton weighed in on during her time as the nation’s chief diplomat, she found herself to the right of the Pentagon.
A former aide recounts that Clinton “contributed to the overmilitarizing of the analysis” with regard to the president’s options in Afghanistan. Clinton initially backed Gen. Stanley McCrystal’s request to send 40,000 troops there and was among on coterie of advisers who forced President Obama’s hand in sending 30,000. Doing so resulted in, among other things, a wave of “green-on-blue” attacks on American service personnel by our alleged Afghan “allies.” Not surprisingly, twice as many US servicemen were killed in Afghanistan under Obama than under George W. Bush.