Donald Trump’s campaign has become a haven for racism and bigotry, allowing hate to become part of the political debate, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton charged Tuesday in a blistering speech intended to make her Republican opponent too poisonous for voters.
Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Trump has shown by whom he hires, what he tweets, how he attacked President Obama’s birth, his stance on immigration and the attraction white nationalists have for him that he is the most dangerous major-party candidate in modern history.
“A man with a long history of racial discrimination who traffics in dark conspiracy theories from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far, dark reaches of the internet should never run our government or command our military,” she said in Reno, Nevada. “There’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it arising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone until now.”
The argument over Mr. Trump’s excesses has played out in living rooms, classrooms and television debates, but Mrs. Clinton’s address puts it squarely in front of voters — particularly moderate Republicans and independents who are disheartened by both major-party offerings this year.
Indeed, as Mrs. Clinton was calling Mr. Trump a bigot, he was portraying her as incomparably corrupt, and said her attack on him was a sign of weakness.
“It is a tired, disgusting argument, and it is so totally predictable,” he said at a rally in New Hampshire. “They are failing so badly. It is the last refuge of the discredited Democrat politicians. They keep going back to the same well, but you know what? The people are becoming very smart. They have heard it too many times before.”
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The war of insults has overtaken the campaign this year, swamping policy. Indeed, Mrs. Clinton said she originally planned to speak Thursday about small businesses, and Mr. Trump planned to deliver a major address detailing his immigration plans.
Instead, those immigration remarks have been delayed as the Trump campaign tries to figure out a way to soften its strict deportation stance and attract moderate and Hispanic voters without angering the more hard-line conservatives who have powered Mr. Trump’s rise within the Republican Party.
Mrs. Clinton says it’s those hard-liners who have enabled Mr. Trump’s bigotry and who are latching onto the Republican nominee to gain a foothold in mainstream conversation.
The former secretary of state, senator and first lady said voters shouldn’t be fooled by Mr. Trump’s recent weeks of outreach to black and Hispanic voters, saying his long record can’t be undone in days.
“There is no other Donald Trump,” she said.
Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Trump went out of bounds when he helped push the “birther” movement that questioned whether Mr. Obama was born in the U.S. Mr. Trump even threatened to send investigators to Hawaii to attempt to disprove Mr. Obama’s biography — forcing the White House to post Mr. Obama’s birth certificate online, finally settling the matter.
She also blasted Mr. Trump’s assertion that Mexican immigrants are “rapists”; his claim that hundreds of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; his contention that a judge of Mexican heritage is incapable of impartially overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University; and his assertion last week that blacks are struggling in neighborhoods with high crime rates, low job prospects and bad schools.
Mrs. Clinton also said Mr. Trump should be judged by the company he keeps — particularly his hiring of Stephen Bannon, the chief of Breitbart News, which she said has become a forum for the “alt-right,” the name ultraconservatives and white nationalists have given themselves.
“This is not conservatism as we’ve known it,” Mrs. Clinton said. “These are racist ideas, race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-woman — all key tenets making up the racist ideology known as the alt-right. … The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for this element.”
Members of the alt-right world told The Washington Times that Mrs. Clinton and reporters have it backward. They say it’s not that Mr. Trump is embracing them, but rather they are finding some things to like in what Mr. Trump says.
Mrs. Clinton, though, said that has helped make their fringe views seem mainstream. She also said Mr. Trump’s policies are proof of that. She pointed in particular to his promise to deport illegal immigrants and his previous pledge to temporarily stop admitting Muslims to the U.S. — a proposal Mr. Trump has since curtailed.
New Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said the vicious attack was proof that Mr. Trump’s campaign is irritating Mrs. Clinton.
“We’re living in her head rent-free, and that must terrify the political insiders who want to keep things exactly the way they are,” Mrs. Conway said.
She is leading an effort to moderate Mr. Trump’s image, beginning with immigration. This week, the candidate and his campaign have suggested he could find a way to grant legal status to illegal immigrants with deep ties to the U.S., reversing his previous position that all illegal immigrants “have to go.”
The mere hint of weakening his stance, though, has drawn fierce fire from conservatives who say Mr. Trump risks becoming another pandering politician.
⦁ Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.