Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton delivered a blistering takedown of the often-incoherent and always-hateful bluster that passes for Donald Trump’s foreign policy views. It was a powerful speech, the best of Clinton’s campaign, and made it clear she is more than capable of exploiting Trump’s long history of saying nonsensical and dangerous things. On Tuesday, Hillary outdid herself.
Speaking in Columbus, Ohio, Clinton spent the better part of an hour on Tuesday laying into Trump’s words and his actions, using what was ostensibly a speech on economic policy to undercut the very thing that is central to her opponent’s appeal: his reputation as a rich and successful businessman. She hit Trump on his past bankruptcies at his Atlantic City casino, the current lawsuit against Trump University, and his ongoing refusal to release his tax returns. She also noted the wide range of economic experts who have warned that electing Trump risks bringing the U.S. economy to its knees, including a recent report from Moody’s Analytics that suggests his proposals could lead to a prolonged recession and heavy job losses among low- and middle-income workers.
“Just like he shouldn’t have his finger on the button, he shouldn’t have his hands on our economy,” Clinton said. “Now, I don’t say that because of typical political disagreements. Liberals and conservatives say Trump’s ideas would be disastrous. The Chamber of Commerce and labor unions, Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren, economists on the right and the left and the center, all agree: Trump would throw us back into recession.”
Judging by the number of angry tweets and press releases Trump and his team sent out during and after the speech, it appears as though Clinton’s economic-themed attacks got under the reality television star’s skin in a way that her national security critique did not.
(Clinton’s team also unveiled a new website on Tuesday, which not-so-subtly questions whether Trump is the billionaire he claims he is. “How’d Donald Trump become a millionaire?” the website asks on its about page.)
Tuesday’s speech was another impressive performance from the presumptive Democratic nominee and a reminder that she can play the part of attack dog when she needs to. Toward the end her remarks, she even tried her hand at humor. “He’s written a lot of books about business; they all seem to end at Chapter 11,” she said before breaking into a prolonged smile.
The most effective parts of Clinton’s speech were when she let Trump’s words do the work for her. She quoted him on everything from his comments during a GOP debate suggesting American wages are “too high” to his past dismissal of pregnant employees as an “inconvenience.”
“You know, when I was working on this speech, I had the same experience I had when I was working on the speech I gave about foreign policy and national security. I’d have my researchers and speechwriters send me information, and then I’d say, really? He really said that?” she said. “And they’d send me all the background and the video clip.”
She didn’t just hit Trump on what he’s said, either; she also pummeled him on what he hasn’t:
Now you may have noticed there’s a lot missing. The “king of debt” has no real plan for making college debt payable back or making college debt-free. This is a crisis that affects so many of our people. He has no credible plan for rebuilding our infrastructure apart from the wall that he wants to build. Personally, I’d rather spend our money on rebuilding our schools or modernizing our energy grid. He has no ideas how to strengthen Medicare or Social Security and, in fact, his tax plan would endanger both. No real strategy for creating jobs—just a string of empty promises—but then maybe we shouldn’t expect better from someone who’s most famous words are, “You’re fired.”
He has no clean energy plan, even though that’s where many of the jobs of the future will come from, and it is the key to a safer, healthier planet. He just says that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese. Well, give him this: It is a lot easier to say a problem doesn’t exist than it is to actually try to solve it. And of course, he has no plan for helping urban and rural communities facing entrenched poverty and neglect. Every single one of these issues matter.
Clinton plans to hold a second economic speech on Wednesday to talk in more detail about her own plans, which include raising the minimum wage and expanding benefits for working families. (She’ll have to walk a particularly tight line on free trade given her past support for, and current opposition to, trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Trump loves to rail against.) On Tuesday, though, she was able to score points simply by having an actual plan to point to. “I admit, it is a little wonky,” she said, after telling people to visit her website to read her proposals. “But I have this old-fashioned idea that if you’re running for president, you should say what you want to do, how you’re going to pay for it, and how you’ll get it done.”