Hillary Clinton had planned to speak about rectifying economic inequality, building infrastructure and the value of unions at her Pittsburgh rally Tuesday, but her address took a different tack in response to Sunday’s massacre in Orlando.
With a nod to the pro-union crowd at the Circuit Center, headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 5. on Pittsburgh’s South Side, Clinton opened her speech with the promise that if elected president, she would be “a strong advocate for labor” and assured her audience that she would be addressing those issues in the weeks to come.
Tuesday’s address, however, centered on defeating ISIS and other radical movements, while the former secretary of state contrasted herself with the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, both in demeanor and in words.
After congratulating the city on the Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory, Clinton, with a strong and measured bearing, focused her lens on “a hate crime” at a LGBTQ nightclub, “right in the middle of Pride Month.”
Pennsylvania was affected by the murders, as was the rest of the country, she said, noting among the victims two women from Philadelphia — Akyra Murray, a high school basketball star, and her friend, Patience Carter — serving as a “poignant reminder that even in a country as big as ours, we are all connected.”
Clinton renewed her commitment for defeating radical movements abroad as well as at home and referred to the speech she delivered in Cleveland on Monday, in which she laid out her plan for ramping up air strikes against ISIS and accelerating support for U.S. allies in the region who are fighting on the ground.
Emphasizing that if elected she would make the prevention of “lone wolf” attacks a priority, Clinton recognized the threat of individuals living in the U.S. who may not have direct links to groups like ISIS, but who are nonetheless inspired to bad acts by those groups through the Internet.
It is imperative, she said, following terrorist attacks such as those in Paris, Brussels and San Bernardino, to meet with Muslim community leaders “to build strong partnerships.”
”We need to lift up voices of moderation and tolerance,” she said.
Contrary to accusations by Trump, Clinton affirmed that she supports the Second Amendment but nonetheless favors sensible gun legislation.
“I believe we Americans are capable of both protecting our Second Amendment rights while making sure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands,” she said.
Omar Mateen, the terrorist who murdered 49 people in Orlando on Sunday “is the definition of the wrong hands,” she said, adding that “weapons of war have no place in our streets.”
While noting the diverse range of opinions when it comes to how to deal with terrorism, Clinton stressed her faith that “on a deeper level, we are all on the same page … we are all Americans. There is more that unites us than divides us.”
Clinton then turned her attention to Trump, contending he is incapable of uniting the country at a time when division could pose a threat and that he is unqualified to be commander in chief.
“ I think we all know that [commander in chief] is a job that demands a calm, collected and dignified response to these kinds of events,” she said. “Instead, yesterday morning, just one day after the massacre, he went on TV and suggested that President [Barack] Obama is on the side of the terrorists. Just think about that for a second.”
That comment, she said, was beyond the pale.
“Even in a time of divided politics, this is beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president of the United States.”
Clinton proffered several other Trump comments that she argued proved he was unfit to serve in the highest office of the land, including his “birther” accusations that Obama was not born in the U.S. (“I guess he had to be reminded Hawaii is part of the United States”), and his claim that a federal judge in Indiana could not do his job because of his “Mexican heritage” (“I guess he has to be reminded Indiana is in the United States”).
Such histrionics are inappropriate for a would-be president of the United States, according to Clinton.
“We need leadership, common sense and concrete plans,” she said, all things that Trump lacks.
Trump’s plan to defeat radical jihadists comes down to two points, Clinton said, one of which is merely a question of semantics.
“First, he is fixated on the words ‘radical Islam.’… Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us?”
The only other idea he has, she said, is to “ban all Muslims from entering our country. And now he wants to go even further and suspend all immigration from large parts of the world.”
Clinton pointed out that the Orlando terrorist was not an immigrant but was born in Queens, as was Trump himself.
“Beyond that, [Trump] said a lot of false things, including about me,” Clinton continued. “He said I’ll abolish the Second Amendment. Well, that’s wrong. He said I’ll let a flood of refugees into our country without any screening. That’s also wrong. These are demonstrably lies. But he feels compelled to tell them – because he has to distract us from the fact that he has nothing substantive to say for himself.”
Clinton also called out Trump for not standing up to the gun lobby, noting that the Orlando murderer used both a handgun and “a Sig Sauer MCX rifle.”
“If you don’t know what that is, I urge you to Google it. See it for yourself,” she said.
Clinton concluded her speech with an emphasis on the need to move past barriers and unite the country in its common goals. She recalled the letter that President George H.W. Bush left in the Oval Office for her husband when he assumed the presidency.
The note had “some good advice about staying focused on what mattered, despite the critics,” she said. “It wished him happiness. And it concluded with these words:
‘You will be our president when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success is now our country’s success. And I am rooting hard for you. George.’”
The Clinton event, which was open to the public, included introductory remarks by the Rev. James Edward Brown of Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church; Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak; Josh Shapiro, Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania attorney general and Montgomery County commissioner; and Leo Gerard, president of United Steelworkers, and AFL-CIO vice president.
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.