“Clinton to Paint Trump as a Risk to World Order.”
Thus did page one of Thursday’s New York Times tee up Hillary Clinton’s big San Diego speech on foreign policy.
Inside the Times, the headline was edited to underline the point:
“Clinton to Portray Trump as Risk to the World.”
The Times promoted the speech as “scorching,” a “sweeping and fearsome portrayal of Mr. Trump, one that the Clinton campaign will deliver like a drumbeat to voters in the coming months.”
What is happening here?
As Donald Trump is splitting off blue-collar Democrats on issues like America’s broken borders and Bill Clinton’s trade debacles like NAFTA, Hillary Clinton is trying to peel off independents and Republicans by painting Trump as “temperamentally unfit” to be commander in chief.
Clinton contends that a Trump presidency would be a national embarrassment, that his ideas are outside the bipartisan mainstream of U.S. foreign policy, and that he is as contemptuous of our democratic allies as he is solicitous of our antidemocratic adversaries.
In portraying Trump as an intolerable alternative, Clinton will find echoes in the GOP establishment and among the Kristol-Kagan neocons, many of whom have already signed an open letter rejecting Trump.
William Kristol has recruited one David French to run on a National Review-Weekly Standard line to siphon off just enough votes from the GOP nominee to tip a couple of swing states to Clinton.
Robert Kagan contributed an op-ed to a welcoming Washington Post saying the Trump campaign is “how fascism comes to America.”
Yet, if Clinton means to engage on foreign policy, this is not a battle Trump should avoid. For the lady has an abysmal record on foreign policy and a report card replete with failures.
As senator, Clinton voted to authorize President Bush to attack and invade a nation, Iraq, that had not attacked us and did not want war with us.
Clinton calls it her biggest mistake, another way of saying that the most important vote she ever cast proved disastrous for her country, costing 4,500 U.S. dead and a trillion dollars.
That invasion was the worst blunder in U.S. history and a contributing factor to the deepening disaster of the Middle East, from which, it appears, we will not soon be able to extricate ourselves.
As secretary of state, Clinton supported the unprovoked U.S.-NATO attack on Libya and joked of the lynching of Moammar Gadhafi, “We came. We saw. He died.”
Yet, even Barack Obama now agrees the Libyan war was started without advance planning for what would happen when Gadhafi fell. And that lack of planning, that failure in which Clinton was directly involved, Obama now calls the worst mistake of his presidency.
Is Clinton’s role in pushing for two wars, both of which resulted in disasters for her country and the entire Middle East, something to commend her for the presidency of the United States?
Is the slogan to be, “Let Hillary clean up the mess she helped to make?”
Whether or not Clinton was complicit in the debacle in Benghazi, can anyone defend her deceiving the families of the fallen by talking about finding the evildoer who supposedly made the videotape that caused it all?
Even then, she knew better.
How many other secretaries of state have been condemned by their own inspector general for violating the rules for handling state secrets, for deceiving investigators, and for engaging, along with that cabal she brought into her secretary’s office, in a systematic stonewall to keep the department from learning the truth?
Where in all of this is there the slightest qualification, other than a honed instinct for political survival, for Clinton to lead America out of the morass into which she, and the failed foreign policy elite nesting around her, plunged the United States?
If Trump will stay true to his message, he can win the foreign policy debate, and the election, because what he is arguing for is what Americans want.
They do not want any more Middle East wars. They do not want to fight Russians in the Baltic or Ukraine, or the Chinese over some rocks in the South China Sea.
They understand that, as Truman had to deal with Stalin, and Ike with Khrushchev, and Nixon with Brezhnev, and Reagan with Gorbachev, a U.S. president should sit down with a Vladimir Putin to avoid a clash neither country wants, and from which neither country would benefit.
The coming Clinton-neocon nuptials have long been predicted in this space. They have so much in common. They belong with each other.
But this country will not survive as the last superpower if we do not shed this self-anointed role as the “indispensable nation” that makes and enforces the rules for the “rules-based world order,” and that acts as first responder in every major firefight on earth.
What Trump has hit upon, what the country wants, is a foreign policy designed to protect the vital interests of the United States, and a president who will — ever and always — put America first.