- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

As Republicans kicked off their party convention in Cleveland, Hillary Clinton on Monday tried to spoil the coronation of Donald Trump by painting her rival as a bigot who is incapable of keeping America safe or dealing with the complex challenges around race.

Rather than step into the shadows during the GOP convention, Mrs. Clinton instead tried to seize the spotlight with high-profile speeches Monday to the NAACP and the American Federation of Teachers. The Clinton campaign also announced new voter registration and outreach efforts that will take place throughout the week, along with other initiatives aimed at generating publicity at a time when all eyes are on Cleveland.

But more importantly, Mrs. Clinton used her NAACP address to make the case to voters that she’s the candidate best equipped to bridge the divide between law enforcement and citizens who often see police as an enemy, not an ally. Her comments came one day after a gunman shot and killed three Baton Rouge police officers and wounded three others — the latest in a string of deadly, racially charged incidents involving police across the country.

Any attack on police, Mrs. Clinton said, cannot be tolerated.

“They represent the rule of law itself if you take aim at that and at them you take aim at all of us. There can be no justification, no looking the other way,” Mrs. Clinton said. “This madness has to stop.”

The former first lady again called for gun control and a broader national conversation on criminal justice reform, but she saved her strongest comments for Mr. Trump and suggested that recent tragedies should serve as a reminder why the nation cannot send the billionaire to the Oval Office.

SEE ALSO: Benghazi survivor: ‘Hillary Clinton failed to protect her people on the ground’

“We need a president who can help call us together, not split us apart the Republican nominee for president will do the exact opposite,” she told the NAACP. “Donald Trump led the movement to delegitimize our first black president, trumpeting the so-called birther movement. Donald Trump plays coy with white supremacists. Donald Trump insults Mexican immigrants, even an American judge born of Mexican heritage. Donald Trump demeans women. Donald Trump wants to ban an entire religion from entering our country.”

Monday’s attack was the latest example of how the Clinton campaign intends not just to defeat Mr. Trump on policy, but also to attack his character and integrity, and to make him an unpalatable choice to independents and even some moderate Republicans.

At the same time, Mr. Trump is touting himself as the “law and order candidate,” and the GOP is making its own case to voters that the businessman is the country’s best shot at getting a seemingly endless stream of violence under control.

“Hillary Clinton’s platitudes on gun control and public safety will not ensure an America in which both civilians and law enforcement can feel safe in their own neighborhoods,” said Telly Lovelace, the Republican National Committee’s national director of African-American initiatives and media. “Donald Trump wants to restore law and order to our communities and make America safe again.”

Mr. Trump declined an invitation to speak to the NAACP and instead was in Cleveland on Monday to help kick off the Republican convention.

With the spotlight to herself at the NAACP convention, Mrs. Clinton said white Americans must work to better understand the challenges black Americans face every day, and that citizens of every race must respect the work of law enforcement.

SEE ALSO: Hillary Clinton on police shootings: ‘This madness has to stop’

“We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African-Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day,” the former secretary of state said.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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