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Opinion

Hillary Clinton’s speech combines Bernie’s economics with JFK’s resolve

Hillary Clinton gets a big launch from the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia.
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(David Horsey / Los Angeles Times)

The small group of disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters who tried and failed to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention should have shut up and paid attention. If they had, they would have noticed that the ideas of their hero were dominant in the nominee’s words. On economic issues, immigration and climate change, Clinton set out an agenda that should make progressives feel giddy.

Investments in clean energy, infrastructure, new jobs and free college tuition for most college students at public universities will be her top priorities, Clinton said. “Now, here’s the thing, we’re not only going to make all these investments, we’re going to pay for every single one of them,” she said. “And here’s how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.”

Progressives are not the only ones who should be pleased. Republican foreign policy experts who have been appalled by Donald Trump’s erratic temperament, ignorance of the world and weird affinity for dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin should now be confirmed, even if secret, Hillary enthusiasts. The tough foreign policy espoused not only by Clinton but by various speakers on the stage Thursday evening marked a return of John F. Kennedy-style muscular patriotism to the Democratic Party. In recent years, it has been said that Republicans are from Mars and Democrats are from Venus. In a Hillary Clinton White House, it sounded as if Democrats would be from Mars, leaving Trump Republicans to spin untethered somewhere beyond Pluto.

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“From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we’re dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated,” Clinton said. “No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance. Looking for steady leadership. You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority.”

And, speaking of toughness, Clinton laid into Trump for his empty bravado and bogus credentials as a businessman. “Ask yourself,” she said, “does Donald Trump have the temperament to be commander in chief?  Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign. He loses his cool at the slightest provocation. When he’s gotten a tough question from a reporter. When he’s challenged in a debate. When he sees a protester at a rally. Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” 

And there was this: Trump “also talks a big game about putting America first. Please explain to me what part of ‘America first’ leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.”

So, she offered America a big dose of Bernie’s economics and JFK’s resolve. Most important, though, may be her Reagan-like optimism and flag-waving, can-do spirit. In his own convention speech, Trump painted a picture of a nation with a flaccid military, wracked by crime and cowering in fear of terrorists. The kind of grim picture seldom beats “Morning in America” and Clinton’s speech was filled with sunny certainty. “Let our legacy be about “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” she said. “That’s why we’re here — not just in this hall, but on this Earth. The founders showed us that. And so have many others since. They were drawn together by love of country and the selfless passion to build something better for all who follow. That is the story of America.”

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And that is the kind of campaign rhetoric that usually sells to the American electorate. The question remains, is Hillary the right saleswoman amid the discontent of 2016? The next three months will tell, but it is hard to imagine a better launch than she got from this convention.

David.Horsey@latimes.com

Follow me at @davidhorsey on Twitter

 

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