For the first two nights of the Democratic National Convention convention, Donald Trump’s presence was hardly felt as the party struggled with its own unification. On Wednesday night, the Republican nominee starred front-and-center, as a parade of speakers delivered blistering assaults and withering critiques of his policy positions, judgment, and preparedness for the White House.
“America is already great,” Obama said, rejecting Trump’s slogan and criticizing the gloomy tone at the GOP convention in Cleveland last week. “America is already strong,” he continued, comparing Trump’s claims that he alone can fix things to the rhetoric of kings and dictators. “We don’t look to be ruled.”
The message was carefully rolled out over the course of several hours on cable and primetime television by a campaign that has a plan to dismantle Trump’s reputation over the next 103 days. It began with a biting video splicing together prominent Republicans warning of the consequences of Donald Trump’s foreign policy statements and questioning whether he has the temperament to hold the nuclear launch codes. It concluded with the President of the United States taking his would-be successor to task as a business fraudster who had rejected core American values. Speakers called out what they called Trump’s “me-first” policies, and raised alarm over his national security positions.
Vice President Joe Biden joined in the attacks on Trump, who doubled down on his call for the reversal of the Obama administration’s ban on torture and “enhanced interrogation” earlier in the day. “We can’t elect a man that embraces the tactics of our enemies,” Biden said. “Donald Trump with all of his rhetoric would literally make us less safe.”
While the attacks were long-planned, Trump’s call in a press conference Wednesday for Russia to hack Clinton’s email, drew fresh condemnation from the foreign policy experts who took the stage. The added lines come as the Clinton administration is looking to cast Trump as a threat, rather than a sideshow. “This morning, he personally invited Russia to hack us,” said Rear Admiral John Huston (Ret.), a former Republican who endorsed Obama in 2008. “That’s not law and order. That’s criminal intent.”
“Donald Trump today once again took Russia’s side,” added Obama’s former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. “He asked the Russians to interfere in American politics.” Panetta recounted Clinton’s role in the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, arguing it gave her unrivaled experience for the job of president.
“The only candidate for president who has the experience, temperament, and judgment to be Commander-in-Chief is Hillary Clinton,” he said. “This is no time to gamble with our future.”
Huston, the former U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General, warned that Trump would violate international law with his support for torture, while arguing his bombast made the nation less safe. “Donald Trump is a walking, talking recruiting poster for terrorists,” he said. “That’s not hyperbole. ISIS literally used Trump in a commercial.”
Kristen Kavanaugh, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant, argued Trump wouldn’t pass muster with the military. “The military is defined by discipline. Leadership. Integrity. Those are the qualities that drew me to serve,” she said. “And those are the very qualities that Donald Trump lacks.”
That was followed by an appeal to independent voters. Calling Trump a “dangerous demagogue” and a “con” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a political independent who ran for office as a Republican, recounted Trump’s bankruptcies and checkered business record of outsourcing and hiring those in the U.S. illegally—contrary to his public stances. “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy,” the billionaire media mogul said.
Then it was time for Clinton’s running mate to show his skills as a knife-fighter. “He never tells you how he’s going to do any of the things he says he’s going to do,” Kaine said of Trump. “He just says, ‘believe me.’ So here’s the question. Do you really believe him? Donald Trump’s whole career says you better not.”