CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hillary Clinton offered a scathing critique of Donald Trump’s foreign policy on Monday, casting her Republican presidential rival as disrespectful of America’s role in the world and too reckless to serve as the country’s commander in chief.
While avoiding any direct mention of Trump’s name, Clinton slammed many of his recent statements about the military and international affairs, vowing to stand by longtime allies, fight repressive regimes and carefully weigh the advice of military officials.
“You will never hear me say, ‘I only listen to myself on national security,”’ she told veterans gathered for the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
While Clinton has spent much of her campaign highlighting her international experience, some polls show active duty troops backing Trump over Clinton by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
The former secretary of state appeared to attribute some of that support to her gender, noting that her role as the first female presidential nominee of a major political party “takes a little getting used to even for me.”
She added: “I want you to know I will get up every single day in the White House doing everything I possibly can to protect our country.”
The statement was an unusual acknowledgement by Clinton that there may be some voters, particularly within the military, who have a problem with the notion of a female commander-in-chief.
Hoping to assuage some of those concerns, Clinton’s campaign has highlighted former military officials who’ve endorsed her in recent weeks. That includes retired Gen. John Allen, a former deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, who endorsed Clinton on Monday.
“I have stayed out of the political arena my entire adult life, but given the complexities of issues facing our country today and its longtime allies, I felt compelled to speak up and be heard,” said Allen in a statement circulated by Clinton’s campaign. “I have no doubt that she is the leader we need at this time to keep our country safe.”
In recent weeks, Trump has threatened to remove American forces from Europe and Asia if those allies fail to pay more for American protection and questioned the U.S. commitment to defending NATO allies. He’s also expressed eagerness to pull out of longstanding treaties, like the NAFTA trade pact, and praised autocratic leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
At an afternoon rally, Clinton said the Democratic convention would offer a more hopeful, positive vision of the country’s future than Trump’s “dark, divisive, dangerous” campaign presented last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“I don’t see how you run for president of the United States if you spend all your time trash-talking the United States,” she said. “We’re going to have a convention this week that highlights success stories.”
As Clinton spoke, Democrats struggled with their own internal disputes after party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned under pressure following the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. The emails seemed to show the party had favoured Clinton over her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Associated Press reporter Erica Werner contributed to this report from Philadelphia.