President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders on Wednesday delivered a scathing assessment of Donald Trump’s national security and foreign policy qualifications, portraying him as an erratic blowhard who embraces dictators and disparages America’s allies.
The barrage from speakers including Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former CIA Director Leon Panetta aimed to cast doubt on the Republican nominee’s credentials to serve as commander in chief. It came just hours after Trump invited Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton’s emails — a statement that appeared to encourage Moscow to meddle in U.S. politics and raised further questions about the tycoon’s judgment.
But the speeches also sought to present Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, as a steady hand whose background as senator and secretary of State give her the experience needed to keep the country safe and protect its interests abroad.
“Hillary Clinton is respected around the world not just by leaders, but by the people they serve,” Obama said in the final speech on night three of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. She has the judgment, the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism.”
He said Clinton won’t relent until the Islamic State is destroyed, and “she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit to be the next commander in chief.”
Trump has spoken favorably of torture on U.S. enemies, and has proposed a temporary ban on allowing Muslims into the country.
Speaking earlier in the night, Biden provided perhaps the strongest rebuke of Trump and his ability to lead the U.S. in a dangerous world, saying, “No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has been less prepared to deal with our national security.”
He accused Trump of exploiting Americans’ fears of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, but he said the Republican has no plan to make the nation safer. He also chided Trump for embracing “the tactics of our enemies — torture, religious intolerance.”
“That’s not who we are. It betrays our values, it alienates those who we need in the fight against ISIS,” Biden said.
“We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin,” Biden said. “A man who seeks to sow division in America for his own gain, and disorder around the world. A man who confuses bluster with strength. We simply cannot let that happen as Americans.”
Panetta, who was the director of the CIA during the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and later served as secretary of Defense, was no kinder to Trump.
He battered the businessman over his comments earlier Wednesday in which Trump seemed to invite Russia to get its hands on Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of State and make them public.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said during a news conference in Florida.
Some of Clinton’s emails during her time as the top U.S. diplomat went missing or were deleted. The correspondence was kept on a private server that Clinton set up — an arrangement that touched off a federal investigation. The FBI and Justice Department ultimately decided not to indict Clinton, but the FBI director did say Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information.
With his remarks Wednesday, Panetta said, Trump “once again took Russia’s side.”
“He asked the Russians to interfere in American politics. Think about that,” he said.
“Donald Trump, who wants to be president of the United States, is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States of America to affect an election,” Panetta said. “It is inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible.”
Trump has generally shrugged off criticism of his foreign policy ideas, saying that he will get better deals with allies and rivals alike and make the country safer. On Wednesday, his campaign dismissed the Democrats’ harsh assessment of his leadership credentials.