Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton used what her campaign billed as a major foreign policy speech to launch a blistering attack on Donald Trump. On Monday, one day after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, many expected the same from her planned remarks in Cleveland. But instead of firing another broadside against her opponent, Clinton spent the time talking about her actual policies.
That, it stands to reason, was intentional. Notably, Clinton never invoked Trump’s name during her address, instead declaring that, “Today is not a day for politics.” But the presumptive Republican nominee was absent in name only as Clinton took a number of unsubtle jabs at Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric and his calls to ban Muslims from entering the country as she made the case for her own proposals. “Millions of peace-loving Muslims live, work, and raise their families across America,” Clinton said. “So we should be intensifying contacts in those communities, not scapegoating or isolating them.”
Clinton laid out a multi-part plan to prevent future attacks from ISIS-inspired “lone wolf” terrorists, as the evidence suggests Orlando gunman Omar Mateen was. The former secretary of state called for creating an “intelligence surge” to help identify potential terrorists and counter ISIS propaganda, building greater relationships with U.S. Muslim communities, banning the sale of assault weapons, and barring those on the government’s terror watch-list from purchasing a firearm. It was an imperfect plan, but it was a largely coherent one—which made it all the more noteworthy compared to whatever you want to call the rambling mess of hate-filled contradictions Trump offered hours later during his own Orlando speech.
Clinton also continued to make a play for Trump-skeptical Republicans by calling for unity and bipartisanship, much as she did in San Diego earlier this month when she was attacking Trump more directly. “I remember how it felt on the day after 9/11—and I bet many of you do as well. Americans from all walks of life rallied together with a sense of common purpose on September the 12th. And in the days and weeks and months that followed we had each other’s backs,” she said. “I was a senator from New York, there was a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. We did not attack each other.”
The political goal was clear: Clinton wanted to look like a president, knowing that Trump would make sure to look like, well, Trump when he stepped on his own stage later that day. That’s more or less what happened. Now she has to hope that Americans were paying attention.