Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Clinton hands Trump the thrashing that his GOP foes could not

In her speech Thursday, Hillary Clinton delivered a stunning and forthright recitation of Donald Trump's "greatest hits" in the foreign-policy arena. Here's an extended direct quote:

"I believe that the person the Republicans have nominated for president cannot do the job. Donald Trump's ideas aren't just different, they are dangerously incoherent. They are not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies. He is not just unprepared; he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility. This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.

"We cannot put the security of our children and our grandchildren in Donald Trump's hands. We cannot let him roll the dice with America. This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia. This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies at NATO, the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home. 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.

"He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture and the murder of civilians who are related to suspected terrorists, even though those are war crimes. He says that he doesn't have to listen to our generals and admirals our ambassadors and other high officials because he has, quote, "a very good brain". He also said, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do". You know what? I don't believe him.

"He said climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese, and he has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren't heroes. He praises dictators such as Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends, including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico and the pope. He says that he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.

"And to top it off, he believes America is weak, an embarrassment. He called our military a disaster. He said we are, and I quote, a "Third World country". And he has been saying things like that for decades. Those are the words of someone who doesn't understand American or the world, and they're the words of someone who would lead us in the wrong direction. Because if you really believe America is weak, with our military, our values, our capabilities that no one comes close to matching, then you don't know America. And you certainly don't deserve to lead it. That's why, even if I weren't in this race, I would be doing everything I could to make sure Donald Trump never becomes president because I believe that he will take this country down a very dangerous path."

In a more rational time, one or two such nonsensical statements by a would-be presidential candidate would have been cause enough to usher him off the stage in disgrace. In Trump's case, he has blustered blithely from one blunder to the next, wearing ignorance as an impenetrable shield. That ended Thursday. It's also important to note that Clinton's rundown of Trump's bumbling isn't even close to complete. When asked about the nuclear triad, the fundamental concept underlying our nuclear deterrence strategy for the past half century, Trump had no idea what the term meant. When asked about Brexit, the possibility of Britain exiting the European Union, he again drew a blank. Those may not be terms that roll off the tongue of many voters, but they ought to be familiar to anyone seeking the job of commander in chief.

After Clinton's speech, I had to laugh when I saw the attempted rebuttal from former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the man who once called Trump a "cancer on conservatism" but now offers himself to Trump as a vice presidential possibility, should the Great and Powerful One so choose.  “Donald Trump will peel her skin off in a debate setting,” Perry predicted, instantly calling up unfortunate images of Trump as Buffalo Bill.

The bizarre description aside, Perry might want to consult with Trey Gowdy and his buddies about Clinton's ability to handle herself in a fight. The Gowdy gang hasn't been heard from since, and I strongly suspect that a similar fate awaits Trump in the upcoming debates.

One more belated note, before I step down from my soapbox:

You may remember an incident a while back in which Trump was accused of publicly mocking a New York Times reporter with a disability. I had seen the clips of Trump's behavior, but I don't know Serge Kovaleski, the reporter in question, and somehow I hadn't seen an image of him until today.  As a result, I couldn't fully gauge Trump's petty cruelty.

To refresh your memory, here's Trump:

... and here's Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a condition called arthrogryposis:

I don't know how you were brought up. Maybe that's OK in your world. In my world, Trump's behavior fails to meet even minimum standards of human decency, let alone the standards expected from a president of the United States. There is no excuse for it, no explanation for it.  Nobody capable of such an act can also be capable of "making America great again."

It is a perfect illustration of Clinton's warning yesterday:  "He is not just unprepared; he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility."

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.