WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Clinton opened her general election campaign against Donald Trump on Wednesday by accusing him of behaving like a “demagogue,” likening his attacks on judges, the media, his opponents and their families to dark moments in the world’s history.
“It’s classic behavior by a demagogue,” she said in an telephone interview with the Associated Press. “We’ve seen it many, many places and times in the world, and that’s why I think it’s so dangerous.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee, who declared victory in her race against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, a day after reaching the number of delegates needed to claim the nomination, seemed to wonder during the interview whether Trump’s candidacy was little more than an elaborate political stunt.
“I don’t know if this is just, you know, political gamesmanship that he thinks plays to the lowest common denominator, but whatever the reason for it is, it’s wrong and it should not be tolerated by anybody,” she said.
But even as she questioned the sincerity of the real estate mogul’s rhetoric, Clinton said voters need to take his words seriously and called them evidence that he is untrustworthy, unqualified and unprepared for the rigors of the White House.
While the two candidates have never been personally close, their political and financial circles have occasionally overlapped over the years — especially during Clinton’s time as a senator from New
York, Trump’s home state. Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, attended Trump’s third wedding in 2005, and she said later that she thought Trump was “always entertaining.”
But in recent years, Clinton expressed surprise at what she described as the billionaire’s descent into “conspiracy theories.”
“He always had opinions which he freely expressed,” she said.
“I never really ever had any information about him engaging in bigotry and prejudice until he took up the cause of the birthers against President Obama, which is really so bizarre,” she added, with an incredulous laugh.
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