That’s because Marco Rubio has, in virtually the same language, already given it.
Clinton’s speech mercilessly and repeatedly mocked Trump’s character; featured a soaring, more optimistic version of America; condemned the businessman as “dangerous”; and appealed to the nation to elect someone with a more stable temperament to handle the nation’s nuclear codes.
For Clinton, the speech was the first major foreign policy salvo against Trump as she transitions to a general election. Her hawkish positions, developed over years in the Democratic foreign policy establishment, have been closer to Rubio’s traditional foreign policy platform than Trump’s have been.
They may even share some of the same guidance: Beacon Global Strategies, a small bipartisan consulting firm, has provided foreign policy advice to both Clinton and Marco Rubio.
“She actually sounds more Reaganesque than the GOP nominee,” Dan Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, told The Daily Beast after Clinton’s speech.
And it comes as The New York Times reports that the Clinton campaign is reaching out to prominent moderate Republicans to endorse her on the basis of her foreign policy bona fides.
Granted, there were no jokes about small hands, but Clinton’s mockery was scathing because it was delivered so seriously—it was not Trump, but Trump’s ideas, that were the target of her audience’s laughter.
“He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has, quote, ‘a very good brain,’” Clinton said Thursday, to peals of laughter.
“He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia,” she continued, with eyebrows raised in disbelief.
“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different. They are dangerously incoherent. They’re not even really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies,” she said.
“We all know the tools Donald Trump brings to the table: bragging, mocking, composing nasty tweets—I’m willing to bet he’s writing a few right now,” she grinned, no doubt aware of how much this might get under Trump’s skin.
(Spoiler: it did.)
Compare that to the speeches Rubio made in the last weeks of his campaign against Trump—at an athletic facility in Manchester, N.H or outside a mom-and-pop store near Miami.
Rubio, in February, lamented the idea of “the nuclear codes of the United States—to an erratic individual.”
“This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes, because it’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin,” Clinton said Thursday afternoon.
Both Rubio and Clinton have now called The Donald “dangerous.” And both, in their campaigns, have appealed to a more optimistic version of American society:
“This election is a choice between two very different visions of America: one that’s angry, afraid and based on the idea that America is fundamentally weak and in decline. The other is hopeful, generous and confident in the knowledge that America is great just like we always have been. So, let’s resolve that we can be greater still. that is what I believe in my heart,” Clinton said.
Close your eyes. Can you hear Rubio speaking those words?
That’s because he did, essentially.
“I would remind everyone America is great,” Rubio said in September. “There’s no nation on earth I would trade places with. There’s no other country I would rather be.”
A large group of Republican national security leaders signed an open letter in March argued that with Trump in the White House, “he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe, and which would diminish our standing in the world.” They condemned his advocacy for “trade wars,” the use of torture, anti-Muslim rhetoric and his admiration for dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
“This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia. This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO… he believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world,” Clinton said Thursday.
In contrast to Trump, Clinton supported the Iraq War (which she now believes was a mistake); supported aid for Syrian rebels and a no-fly zone to protect civilians; and is staunchly pro-Israel.
“Hillary’s about appealing as leukemia. But she’s not insane,” said John Noonan, a former staffer on the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee and a signatory to the open letter. “Her prognosis is accurate. Trump’s a fascist lunatic whose ideas mean the end of a golden age of US global leadership.”
But Noonan, who worked for Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential campaign, is skeptical a serious-minded approach will work for Clinton as the election bout continues over the next six months.
“[S]he’s wrong to think that ideas matter in this election. They don’t. We learned that the hard way in the primary. She should just call him the tiny-handed criminal that he is and leave the foreign policy mumbo jumbo to the eggheads,” he told The Daily Beast.
Rubio, in closing out his 2016 campaign, urged his fellow Republicans: “do not give into the fear, do not give into the frustration… we are a hopeful people, and we have every right to be hopeful.”
His campaign may have ended—but this spirit lived on, and will continue to live on, in an unlikely place: his nemesis Hillary Clinton’s bid to what he couldn’t—end Trump’s chances for the White House.
“Making Donald Trump our commander-in-chief would be a historic mistake… it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are—that we’re fearful, not confident… that’s not the America I know and love,” Clinton said.