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Hillary Clinton makes veiled criticism of Trump "photo op" in Mexico

What will Trump say?
What will Trump say? 06:55

Hillary Clinton seemed to slam Donald Trump’s visit with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto Wednesday while speaking to the American Legion, making veiled references to the hastily-scheduled “photo op” in Mexico without ever mentioning the GOP nominee’s name. 

“You don’t build a coalition by insulting our friends or acting like a loose cannon,” Clinton said in a Wednesday afternoon speech to the Legion’s annual convention in Cincinnati. “You do it by putting in the slow, hard work of building relationships.” 

Of her own experience in assembling alliances, Clinton said: “Getting countries working together was my job every day as your secretary of state.  It’s more than a photo op.  It takes consistency and reliability.”

“Actually, it’s just like building personal relationships – people have to get to know that they can count on you – that you won’t say one thing one day and something totally different the next,” Clinton continued, as Trump has taken heat for his shifting stances on immigration policies and how to handle the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the  U.S.

“It certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours, and then flying home again,” Clinton said. “That is not how it works.” 

The former secretary pledged that her administration would not turn its back on foreign alliances, contrasting her vision of American leadership with Trump, whose campaign has proposed pulling out of NATO and tearing up trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“Threatening to walk away from our alliances, ignoring the importance that they still are to us, is not only wrong, it’s dangerous,” Clinton said. “If I’m your president, our friends will always know -- America will have your backs and we expect you to have ours.”

Clinton’s midday address at the American Legion’s annual convention in Cincinnati Wednesday comes as Trump embarked on a last-minute trip to Mexico in advance of a long-awaited speech on immigration. A Clinton campaign official said the Democratic nominee had planned to use her first public event in days to portray her Republican opponent as a questionable leader who would “walk away from our allies, undermine our values, insult our military - and has explicitly rejected the idea of American exceptionalism.”

In contrast, Clinton made the case for American exceptionalism and called for maintaining America’s military and diplomatic leadership across the globe. 

American exceptionalism refers to the country’s elevated standing and leadership in the world. Donald Trump has pledged to “Make America Great Again” and restore the country to a time when, in his view, the U.S. was more prosperous and full of opportunity than now. Democrats, including President Barack Obama, insist America is already great, or “exceptional.”

Impact of Trump's Mexico trip 03:05

To bolster her argument, Clinton talked about her experience, including serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and as secretary of state. She also emphasized the growing list of Republicans who have backed her campaign.

James Clad, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, announce his support for Clinton early Wednesday, following a slew of GOP endorsements. In a statement, Clad said that “giving an incoherent amateur the keys to the White House this November will doom us to second or third-class status.”

Clad joins a number of other national security leaders, including those from Republican administrations, like former National Security Advisr Brent Scowcroft and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

In another indirect but clear reference to Trump, Clinton criticized those who attack Gold Star families and prisoners of war, as Trump did with the Khan family and Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“I will never ever disrespect Gold Star families who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation or prisoners of war who have endured so much in our name,” she said. “To insult them is just so wrong, and it says a lot about the person doing the insulting.” 

Clinton’s remarks come on the same day her Republican opponent is set to deliver a long-awaited speech on immigration, in which he is expected to provide more clarity on his primary pledge to deport all of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally. While Trump had said during the primary that he intended to accomplish that goal with the help of a “deportation force,” in recent weeks he has suggested in closed-door meetings with Hispanic activists that he might be open to re-considering. He and his aides have spent the last week-and-a-half offering mixed signals.

Trump is scheduled to speak in Arizona in the evening. Trump’s campaign said Tuesday night that he will make a surprise trip to Mexico on Wednesday to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The Washington Post first reported the planned trip.

Responding to Trump’s Mexico plans, Clinton Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri said in a statement that “what ultimately matters is what Donald Trump says to voters in Arizona, not Mexico, and whether he remains committed to the splitting up of families and deportation of millions.”

Clinton’s campaign says she has also been invited by Pena Nieto to make a visit and that the two will talk again at “the appropriate time.”

Clinton’s speech in Ohio comes after several days of big-ticket private fundraisers in the Hamptons, a wealthy community on New York’s Long Island, where she collected millions at waterfront mansions in preparation for the fall campaign. The fundraising swing concluded in style Tuesday night, with an event featuring performances from Jimmy Buffett, Jon Bon Jovi and Paul McCartney. Since Sunday, Clinton’s headlining of nine fundraisers in the Hamptons has drawn in at least $12 million, according to the campaign.

Though many national and state polls show Clinton with an edge, she has been stressing that the campaign must not take anything for granted. At a fundraiser on Monday she told supporters she was “running against someone who will say or do anything. And who knows what that might be.”

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