Hillary Clinton spoke at the American Legion National Convention this afternoon, fresh off a week filled with vacationing and fundraisers around the Hamptons and California. Clinton, who made her made focus of the speech American exceptionalism, took many opportunities to criticize Republican Candidate Donald Trump referring to him not by name but only her “opponent”.
Clinton started her speech by thanking and honoring the legionnaires for their service and commitment to the nation, and showing gratitude for being invited to speak. She also made a quick note that when her husband heard she was going to be speaking there, he told her to “mention boys nation”, in which she replied she would but she would have to “mention girls nation too.”
Clinton then went on to say she didn’t want to speak about politics before she went on to speak about politics. “Now I’m not going to talk a lot about politics today, but I do want to say this,” she said. “Whoever American elects this fall won’t just be our next President. That person will be our next Commander in Chief. And every person in this room understands how great a responsibility that is.”
“Now I know some of you are Democrats, and some of you are Republicans, and some of you are Independents. I supposed there are some of you who have never voted Democrat before. I get that.” She continued, “My dad was a rock ribbed Republican, but I learned at our dinner table that we can disagree without being disagreeable.”
She then segued a bit into policy talk, speaking about the importance of American exceptionalism and America’s place in the world. In expressing her belief that America is “exceptional” she explained that with that comes a responsibility to other nations around the world.
“My friends,” she said, “we are so lucky to be Americans. It is an extraordinary blessing. It is why so many people from so many places want to be Americans, too. But it is also a serious responsibility. The decisions we make and the actions we take, even the actions we don’t take, affect millions, even billions, of lives.”
She used the concept to deliver her first verbal assault on Trump, stating “my opponent in this race has said very clearly that he thinks American exceptionalism is insulting to the rest of the world. In fact, when Vladimir Putin, of all people, criticized American exceptionalism, my opponent agreed with him.”
She doubled down in her idea that since America is so exceptional it should intervene in world affairs by saying “when America fails to lead, we leave a vacuum that either causes chaos for other countries– or other countries or networks to fill the void.”
She also stated the importance of sticking together with our allies because that is part of what makes us exceptional, finding another opportunity to criticize Trump who she says has been “insulting our friends” and “acting like a loose cannon.”
Speaking about the great honor and American values of standing up against evil regimes and human rights abuse, she said “we act with honor.” She continued by referencing a historical moment that happened to occur while she was serving as Secretary of State by saying, “there is no better proof of that than what our Navy SEALs did during the raid that killed Bin Laden.”
“I was deeply honored to be part of that small group advising the President. I brought to those discussions my experience. As a Senator from New York on 9/11 and my commitment to do whatever I could in whatever role I had to bring Bin Laden to justice,” she continued, “You have all seen the picture of us crowded into the smaller situation room watching a video screen. Every second counted.” And began recounting the entire “‘copter” scene they watched on the screen in front of them that night saying, “That is what honor looks like. That is America at our best.”
Clinton, who has been criticized for her vote as Senator supporting the decision to begin the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, then said, “We must only send our troops into harm’s way as a last resort, not a first choice. That must be our bedrock principle.” She took another jab at Trump by saying “I completely reject anyone, including my opponent, who calls the American military, and I quote, ‘a disaster’.”
Her attempts to pander to the Veterans in the audience did not go as successful as she anticipated, it seemed. In looking to identify with their anger she said, “like you, I was outraged by the scandal at the V.A. hospitals, people waiting for months for basic medications, wheelchairs, and some died while waiting for an appointment. I know you hear from Secretary McDonald and I know how hard he and his team are working.”
Sec. Bob McDonald came into office in 2014 following the wait time scandal Hillary referred to, replacing former Secretary Shenseki. Since entering office, Sec. McDonald has caused his own controversies with issues like failing to oversee enormous art expenditures at various facilities and downplaying the poor care at the VA by equating the long wait times at the VA to long wait times on lines at Disney World.
“We are going to build a 21st century department of Veterans Affairs that delivers world-class care, and we’re not going to let anybody privatize the VA” she said, “we are going to reform and strengthen it, not privatize it.”
She ended the speech with ensuring the crowd that no one would work harder for Vets, military, and their families than she would, and that they deserve a country that “honors your service, not just with words, but with deeds.”
Her opponent, Donald Trump, is expected to speak at the American Legion National Convention on Thursday.