The new for new ideas from a Clinton presidency

David Rothkopf argues that Trump is a trap for Clinton, “Donald Trump is a gift to Hillary Clinton. And a trap. Because as good as it was (and as satisfying as it was to hear), it fell into the pattern of every other phase of this campaign so far, which is making everything about Trump. For Clinton to win, she needs to energise the electorate about what she is for and not just what she is against, or the outcome may well be very much like that experienced by Trump’s opponents thus far. Clinton’s foreign-policy address in San Diego Thursday was certainly effective as far as it went. In fact, it was so effective at enumerating Trump’s flaws as a potential commander in chief it revealed a somewhat different challenge Clinton and her speechwriters face: Figuring out how to keep such speeches short enough so that audience members could get home in time to tuck their kids into bed. “Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different,” she said in one of her many effective, slashing assaults on the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. “They are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas — just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds, and outright lies.” In those brief couple of lines, you can see the beauty of opposing a human toxic waste dump like Trump: No hyperbole is necessary. Just tell it like it is, and it should be clear to any listener with a third-grade education that Trump has no more business being president than he would have teaching a course on humility”.

Rothkopf writes that “When she said Trump is “temperamentally unfit to hold” office, no one who has watched him can doubt it, but listing his idiocies — from suggesting more countries have nukes to actually arguing it wouldn’t matter to us if they used them, from singing the praises of the North Korean regime to suggesting we hand over Syria to the Islamic State — drove home the point with precision. And if her onslaught wasn’t enough, a day or two earlier that same North Korean regime actually endorsed Trump’s candidacy, an act that on its own speaks volumes about just how unfit Trump really is. North Korea wants to bring down America, folks. And its leaders know the surest way to do that is to put The Donald into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. No, it was clear Clinton’s advisors saw giving a foreign-policy speech as a special opportunity because Trump has made himself so stunningly vulnerable in that respect”.

He makes the point that “The problem with beating Trump — to paraphrase Clinton about her former boss Barack Obama’s foreign policy — is that simply being against him is not a foreign policy. (She once suggested Obama’s “don’t do stupid shit” “insight” was not enough to constitute a foreign policy. And, of course, there is no doubt that electing Trump would be the stupidest shit of all.) But that alone is not a vision for America’s future. Nor — and perhaps more importantly — is that platform alone likely to inspire more voters to see the positive reasons for voting for Clinton. Voters deserve a better speech than she gave Thursday, and if she wants to counter the wave of irrational emotion that is the only thing that could sweep a man like Trump into office, Clinton is going to have to start making people more passionate about why they should stand and vote for her, rather than why they should be against the creep the GOP now seems to be uniting around”.

He rightly makes the point that “In order for Clinton to inspire in voters the same kind of passion, she must make clear how the ideas she stands for are new and different and why she is the right person to be president at this moment, the person with the vision to imagine and realize a new world for our children and our children’s children. We need — and she needs — a few big, new ideas. And though it was expert in its dissection of Trump, Thursday’s speech was workmanlike, bland as oatmeal about her own foreign policy, and ultimately devoid of big, new ideas. There was nothing objectionable in it, of course. The points she raised — how the United States needs to be fostering strength at home, cultivating alliances, using diplomacy and development, being “wise with our rivals,” having a plan to defeat terrorists, and staying true to our values — were solid ones. It was just what you would expect from a professional who has years of familiarity with these issues”.

He mentions that “Being “wise” with Russia and China makes sense, of course. But we could use specifics and, while we’re at it, less reflexive China and trade bashing on the campaign trail. It creates a tension that Bill Clinton discovered. It’s easy to blame trade problems on foreigners. But it is also wrong, and when in office, he reversed on these issues as his wife is likely to discover she must also do. But we can go further: We need a doctrine of interdependence with China that recognizes it as a vital ally, as well as a potential rival, one that harnesses better our common interests. And we need to find a new path forward to ensure our deteriorating relationship with Russia does not get worse — even while sending a message that a new administration will not be as feckless in opposition to displays of raw Russian aggression as Obama has been. Of course, we need to defeat terrorists — which means a shift from playing whack-a-mole with an ever-evolving array of terrorist groups to combating extremism more broadly. That means not just knowing what we are against in the Middle East and elsewhere but what we are for”.

He ends “There are still five months left in this campaign. Frankly, that’s more than enough time for a whole campaign (or two). Trump is bad and must be stopped. The only way to do that is to vote for Clinton. But if she does not reach for the big ideas, surround herself with new faces, make certain voters know that she is not just the face of an establishment that fears a Trump presidency (for good reason), she may not win the support of enough voters to actually win. Trump is tapping into passion and frustration with Washington. She can’t help but be seen as part of the system … unless she makes it clear that her experience has not only convinced her massive, fundamental change is needed but that she has the ideas and the people around her to help produce that change. Experience, intelligence, and steadiness are great traits in a president. But they are not enough for a candidate. A candidate needs to inspire, to resonate with the electorate not just in their heads but in their hearts, and to give them real hope, and the one candidate capable of doing this has yet to begin doing so. Perhaps Thursday’s speech was a necessary step — outlining the Trump threat. If so, good enough, but we can’t wait too long for the follow-up speech, one that describes the promise of a Clinton presidency and moves us to stand behind it”.

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