WASHINGTON • Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton pivoted to a general election match-up against Republican candidate Donald Trump on Thursday, saying he is dangerously unpredictable and not qualified to be president.
Confident that she is finally close to defeating Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination, Mrs Clinton turned heavy fire on Mr Trump, the Republicans' presumptive presidential nominee.
In a CNN interview, she used the example of the apparent downing of an EgyptAir plane from Paris to Cairo to say that Mr Trump would lack the skills to bring together US allies to respond to global threats.
"I know how hard this job is and I know we need steadiness as well as strength and smarts in it, and I have concluded that he is not qualified to be president of the United States," Mrs Clinton said.
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Trump said Mrs Clinton was the candidate unqualified to be president. "She has bad judgment," he said in the statement, "and is unfit to serve as president at this delicate and difficult time in our country's history."
But Mrs Clinton said the EgyptAir crash reinforces the need for American leadership and that Mr Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the US has sent the wrong signal to countries that Washington will need to work with in the fight against Islamic militants.
"He says a lot of things that are provocative, that actually make the important task of building this coalition, bringing everybody to the table and defeating terrorism more difficult," she said. "It sends a message of disrespect and it sends a message that makes the situation inside those countries more difficult."
Mrs Clinton suggested the Democratic race was over because of her nearly insurmountable lead in delegates to the nominating convention, despite Mr Sanders' insistence on staying in the race.
She said Mr Sanders will have to eventually help her unify the Democratic Party after the prolonged nomination fight. "I am absolutely committed to doing my part, more than my part. But Senator Sanders has to do his part," she said.
The Sanders campaign rebuffed Mrs Clinton's nudge to get out of the race, pointing to his recent victories.
"In the past three weeks, voters in Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon respectfully disagreed with Secretary Clinton. We expect voters in the remaining eight contests also will disagree," Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said.
Asked if she would consider naming Mr Sanders her vice-presidential nominee, in an effort to unify the party and bring in his liberal and young supporters, Mrs Clinton demurred. "I think the thing that brings us together is Donald Trump," she said.
Mr Trump has been intensifying his criticism of Mrs Clinton by lobbing personal attacks at her and her husband, former US president Bill Clinton. She declined to respond to Mr Trump's attacks, including an interview with Fox News on Wednesday night in which Mr Trump brought up a decades-old rape allegation against the former president. "I think people can judge his campaign for what it is," she said. "I am going to run my campaign."
Asked if she had the urge to defend her family's honour against the onslaught of attacks that will only grow louder, Mrs Clinton said: "No, not at all. I know that is exactly what he is fishing for, and I'm not going to be responding."
Asked what advice her mother Dorothy Rodham would have given her in dealing with the likely battle that awaits her against an opponent unlike any she has confronted, she said: "I think it would be the same advice that my mother always gave me.
"Which is, everybody gets knocked down and knocked around in life. The real test is whether you get up and keep going."
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES