- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Facing an uphill climb with men and women in uniform, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday made an impassioned pitch to veterans and service members, touting “American exceptionalism” and arguing that she is the only presidential candidate in the race capable and qualified to be commander in chief.

Speaking at the American Legion’s annual convention in Cincinnati, the former first lady said her experience in the Senate and as secretary of state has given her the tools to lead the nation’s military, and she warned that her opponent, Republican Donald Trump, would alienate allies and diminish U.S. standing across the world.

“The United States is an exceptional nation. I believe we are still Lincoln’s last, best hope of earth,” she said. “My opponent in this race has said very clearly he thinks American exceptionalism is insulting to the rest of the world. My opponent misses something important. When we say America is exceptional, it doesn’t mean that people from other places don’t feel deep national pride just like we do. It means we recognize America’s unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress, a champion for freedom and opportunity.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump said last year he’s not a fan of the term “American exceptionalism.” He’s also been a vocal critic of the foreign policy of the Obama administration — a foreign policy that Mrs. Clinton helped craft during her four years as secretary of state.

With just over two months until Election Day, Mrs. Clinton trails Mr. Trump among military families, according to recent surveys. An NBC News poll released in mid-August found that 51 percent of military households say they support Mr. Trump, compared to just 41 percent for Mrs. Clinton.

Other polls have had similar results, though some also have said that military families are not pleased with either major party candidate for president this cycle. Mr. Trump’s lead, while substantial, is less than the Republican advantage in years past; Mitt Romney won the veterans’ vote by about 20 points over President Obama in 2012, according to an American National Election Studies survey.

While Mrs. Clinton routinely touts her experience, her long record on foreign policy also includes a fair number of missteps. Among other things, she was a driving force behind the U.S. intervention in Libya, and that country now is in a state of chaos. America’s action in Libya also is synonymous with the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of four American diplomats.

In its own statement, the Trump campaign fired back at the notion that Mrs. Clinton is more qualified because of her experience. A Trump spokesman also said the former secretary’s ongoing email scandal, along with allegations that foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation influenced her decisions at the State Department, should give veterans pause.

“Those who have served and wear the uniform today deserve to have a commander in chief who is looking out for them rather than donors and corrupt bureaucrats,” said Matt Miller, director of Veterans for Trump. “Only Donald Trump and Mike Pence have a detailed plan to fundamentally improve both the VA and the way veterans are treated in this country. This ticket will always put our veterans and service members first, and they will put an end to the business as usual culture in Washington that leaves too many of our veterans behind.”

In her address, Mrs. Clinton vowed to fix the troubled veterans’ health care system and said she’ll reject any attempts to privatize it.

“We are going to build a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs that delivers world-class care,” she said.

Her speech came on the same day Mr. Trump visited Mexico ahead of a widely anticipated speech on immigration policy. Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto clearly is designed to make the Republican billionaire appear more presidential, but Mrs. Clinton said the meeting doesn’t make up for the year of insults Mr. Trump has lobbed at Hispanic Americans.

“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends or acting like a loose cannon. And it certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours,” she said. “That’s not how it works.”

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