Clinton attacks Trump's foreign policy as a threat to US safety

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump (left) and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump (left) and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lambasted Donald Trump's foreign policy platform as "dangerously incoherent" in a speech that cast her Republican rival as both a frightening and laughable figure.

In remarks that at times resembled a comedy roast, Mrs Clinton unleashed a torrent of polished zingers and one-liners to attack Mr Trump's policies and character, suggesting that he might start a nuclear war if elected to the White House, simply because"somebody got under his very thin skin."

"Donald Trump's ideas are not just different, they are dangerously incoherent," she said to a room of supporters in San Diego, California. "They're not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies."

Mrs Clinton, the front-runner in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee, delivered her speech as she seeks to shift her attention to the Nov 8 election against likely rival Mr Trump and away from Bernie Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, who is continuing his long-shot bid for the nomination.

Mrs Clinton was speaking in San Diego ahead of California's June 7 primary election.

Democratic Party leaders have fretted about how to best oppose Mr Trump, who managed to knock out all 16 rivals for the Republican nomination in part with his uninhibited style of assailing them with personal insults.

Mr Trump revels in referring to Mrs Clinton as "Crooked Hillary" and dredging up the infidelities of her husband Bill Clinton, the former president.

Mrs Clinton's remarks were intended in part to show she would not be cowed and that she could go toe-to-toe with him in scornful put-downs.

"He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia," she said as the crowd guffawed, and she suggested Mr Trump would run the US economy "like one of his casinos."

During her speech, Mrs Clinton predicted Mr Trump, who has been deeply critical of her foreign policy record, would take to his Twitter account to insult her, and he did.

"Bad performance by Crooked Hillary Clinton!" ran one posting during the speech, which included a typo. "Reading poorly from the telepromter! She doesn't even look presidential!"

Mr Trump has said previously that Mrs Clinton is distorting his actual policies.

TWO VISIONS

Amid the laugh lines, Mrs Clinton cited her own experience as secretary of state, in particular her role advising President Barack Obama during the mission to kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, to suggest her approach to foreign policy was the more serious.

"He praises dictators like 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," Mrs Clinton said, listing some of the allies with whom Mr Trump has verbally sparred in the last year.

Mr Obama, who has also been repeatedly mocked by Mr Trump, has criticised him as being ignorant or cavalier about world affairs and has said that Mr Trump's rise has "rattled" foreign leaders.

Mr Trump has talked tough on foreign policy. He has said he would bring back waterboarding and other brutal interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects that are widely regarded as torture and were discontinued by Obama.

He has also vowed to renegotiate trade deals, called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, and said he would ask members of the 28-nation Nato alliance to "pay up" or "get out."

He has said he would sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to stop Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Mrs Clinton derided these and other positions, promising she would do a better job keeping the United States safe. Standing in front of a backdrop of 19 large US flags, an unusual abundance even by the standards of presidential campaign events, Mrs Clinton painted the election as a choice between "two very different visions."

"One that's angry, afraid and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline," she said, summing up Trumpism. "The other is hopeful, generous and confident in the knowledge that America is great, just like we always have been."

Mr Trump has criticised Mrs Clinton for her handling of foreign policy during her 2009-2013 stint as secretary of state, including the Sept 11, 2012, attack by Islamist militants on a US diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans.

He cites Mrs Clinton's support for the war in Iraq, launched by former Republican President George W. Bush, as another example of her shortcomings.

Democratic challenger Sanders echoed Mrs Clinton's concerns about Mr Trump after her speech, though he also criticised Mrs Clinton's foreign policy.

"I agree ... that Donald Trump's foreign policy ideas are incredibly reckless and irresponsible," Mr Sanders said in a statement.

In criticising Mrs Clinton, Mr Sanders cited her vote for the war in Iraq, calling it "the worst foreign policy blunder in modern American history," and said "she has been a proponent of regime change, as in Libya, without thinking through the consequences."

In assailing each other's suitability for the White House, Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump are reflecting a negative voter mood ahead of next month's party conventions that will choose the presidential nominees.

Both Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump are facing record-low favourability ratings. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken on Friday through Tuesday shows half of Trump supporters say the primary reason they are going to vote for him is "I don't want Hillary Clinton to win," while 41 per cent of Clinton supporters cite their primary reason as not wanting Trump to win.