Hillary Clinton’s speech Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, was perhaps most effective when she went after Donald Trump’s personal business career as outrageously and unusually exploitative of the middle class — characterizing not just his policies but his business career as motivated by lies and greed.
"This is [Trump’s] one move. He makes over-the-top promises that if people stick with him and put their faith in him, he’ll make them wildly successful," Clinton said. "Then everything falls apart, and everyone gets hurt."
Though large chunks of the speech focused on voicing standard Democratic lines about tax cuts for the rich, raising the minimum wage, and the need to protect Obamacare, she put her strongest delivery into points that cast Trump as uniquely unqualified for president based on his decisions and record as a businessman.
"He defaulted and bankrupted his company not once, not twice, but four times," Clinton said. "He’s written a lot of books about business, and they all end at Chapter 11."
Throughout the campaign, Trump’s most consistent argument is that he’s a phenomenal businessman who will use those skills to jump-start the economy. But Clinton has sought to turn Trump’s business record into a key vulnerability rather than a source of strength, drawing a distinction between the entrepreneurship of most Americans and that practiced by Trump.
"There are great businesspeople here in Ohio, people who care about their workers and the people they do business with. They want to build something that lasts ... and they would never dream of working the way Donald Trump does," Clinton said. "We cannot put a person like this, with all his empty promises, [in] a position of power over our lives. We can’t let him bankrupt America like we are one of his casinos."
Here are some of the lines from Clinton’s speech that advanced this argument about Trump’s business record:
- Clinton said Trump had been sued more than 35,000 times, including by small businesses, and that there were hundreds of liens filed against him.
The victims behind these lawsuits were "painters, waiters, plumbers — people who needed the money and didn’t get it — not because [Trump] couldn’t pay them but because he could stiff them," Clinton said. "Contractors, many of them small businesses, took heavy losses. But Donald Trump came up fine."
- Trump’s history in Atlantic City, which, Clinton noted, Trump has referred to as "a very good cash cow for me for a long time."
- That Trump has suggested the US could default on its debt. "The full faith and credit of the United States is not something we can just gamble away," Clinton said.
- Trump’s record shows his inability to handle national crises, Clinton argued. "Is this who you want to lead us in an emergency? Someone thin-skinned? ... Who tweets insults at reporters?"
- Clinton read a quote from Trump in which he said of his bankruptcies: "I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine. What the hell did I care?" "Everything seems to be a game with him," Clinton said, "but it’s not for a lot of us."
- Clinton said she’d asked her team of speechwriters and researchers to send her Trump’s plans. After they did so, Clinton said, she went back to her staffers, incredulous that what she was seeing were Trump’s actual positions.
"I’d say to them, ‘Really? He really said that?’ And then they sent the background or the video clip" that showed it, Clinton said. "I had to look twice, because I didn’t believe it."