CINCINNATI -- Without ever mentioning Donald Trump by name, Hillary Clinton gave a carefully crafted speech to the nation’s largest veterans group on Wednesday, urging them to be cautious about how they vote this fall.
“Give us both a fair hearing,” Clinton told some 3,000 veterans at the American Legion Convention in Cincinnati, recognizing that people of all political parties were in attendance.
“This election shouldn’t be about ideology. It’s not just about differences over policy,” she said. “It truly is about who has the experience and temperament to serve as president and commander in chief.”
While the veterans listened respectfully and clapped often, it was a polite, measured reception, far different from the rousing welcome that Clinton enjoyed in the same room at the Duke Energy Convention Center in July during her speech at the NAACP Convention.
“Now I that know some of you are Democrats and some of you are Republicans and some of you are Independents,” Clinton said. “I suppose there are some of you who have never voted for a Democrat before. I get that.”
On Thursday veterans will hear from Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, who will speak at 9 a.m. and then travel to Wilmington for a noon rally.
While Clinton didn’t drop any major news during her speech, she did touch on key issues for veterans: quality health care, building a sophisticated military, help for unemployed veterans and national security.
“Like you I was outraged at the scandals at VA hospitals -- people waiting months or years for wheelchairs and basic medication. Some even dying while waiting,” Clinton said. “We are going to build a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs with world-class care and we are not going to let anyone privatize the VA.”
Moments before Clinton took the stage, the Trump campaign released critical comments from three Republican Ohio lawmakers and veterans, including Congressman Brad Wenstrup, a U.S. Army veteran from Cincinnati, who said, “Hillary Clinton has shown behavior unworthy to serve as Commander-in-Chief by exposing our nation’s secrets to our enemies as Secretary of State.”
Here are a few big takeaways from Clinton’s speech:
The only safe choice
Clinton pounded on one theme during her speech – the danger of a Trump presidency to national security.
“Threatening to walk away from our alliances, ignoring the importance they still are to us is not only wrong, it’s dangerous,” Clinton said. “You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends or acting like a loose cannon.”
Just hours before her speech, James Clad, former deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush, released a statement endorsing her and warning that, “giving an incoherent amateur the keys to the White House this November will doom us to second- or third-class status.”
VA health care, jobs
Veterans had hoped to hear Clinton talk about quality health care and finding jobs for unemployed veterans, said former Democratic Ohio state representative Connie Pillich, who is a U.S. Air Force veteran and an American Legion member. Pillich attended the speech and supports Clinton.
Throughout her speech, Clinton promised timely health care to treat all wounds, “invisible and visible,” and to end the mental health crisis epidemic. She also promised better health care, a more sophisticated military that was better equipped to fight cyber-attacks, and to take a hard look at the military’s personnel policies to attract and keep the best.
Repeating Trump criticism
It wasn’t surprising that Clinton used the podium to remind veterans of the offensive comments Trump has made about Arizona Sen. John McCain as prisoner of war and his hostility toward the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. Army captain.
“I will never, ever disrespect Gold Star families who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country or prisoners of war who endured so much,” she said. “To insult them is just so wrong. It says a lot about the person doing the insulting.”
A steady temperament
During her speech, veterans were no doubt judging Clinton’s demeanor and her steadiness to make sound decisions.
“They want to analyze her in terms of her readiness to be commander in chief,” Pillich said.
Speaking to that, Clinton gave a vivid account of the capture of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. Special Forces during a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
“I was holding my breath through the entire operation,” Clinton said, as she watched the raid over live video with President Barack Obama in a White House war room.