Hillary Clinton's speech in California on Thursday dissecting Donald Trump's foreign policy was arguably the best speech of her campaign, if not her career. For one thing, she was relaxed, obviously enjoying going after Trump and his harebrained ideas.
The speech was more about him than her, as her team had previewed. Collecting specifics from his months of foreign policy blather and inanities, she made the case he is an ignoramus, a dangerous one. "Donald Trump's ideas aren't just different - they are dangerously incoherent. They're not even really ideas - just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies," she said. "He is not just unprepared - he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility."
Getting right to the point she declared, "This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes - because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin." All that was missing was the famous Daisy ad.
She ticked off a list of his scary notions:
This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.
"This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO --the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home.
"He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.
She also pointed to his creepy affection for dictators: "I don't understand Donald's bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America. He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength," she said, adding, "Now, I'll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants."
As to her description of her own policies, many Americans will disagree with her assertion that the Iran deal left the U.S. safer than before we gave the mullahs $100 billion and a pathway to nuclear breakout. We, and others, recognized that her speech avoided discussion of the military funding, as if a foreign policy including a plan to defeat the Islamic State does not need a robust military as its foundation. She is no Jeb Bush or Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to be sure. She is a Democrat in a party moving steadily left. We are left to hope she will act on her past assertions that we must be more proactive in checking Iran's regional aggression, missile tests and human rights abuses. (As for bolstering the military budget, that will require that Republicans hold the majorities in the House and Senate.)
Certainly this speech had a more centrist, hawkish tone than what we have heard from the president for seven years.
Finally, she made the case effectively that Trump's noxious language harms us around the globe:
"It matters when he says he'll order our military to murder the families of suspected terrorists. During the raid to kill bin Laden, when every second counted, our SEALs took the time to move the women and children in the compound to safety. Donald Trump may not get it, but that's what honor looks like.
"And it also matters when he makes fun of disabled people, calls women pigs, proposes banning an entire religion from our country, or plays coy with white supremacists. America stands up to countries that treat women like animals, or people of different races, religions or ethnicities as less human."
The devil is always in the details in foreign policy, and we know all too well from the Obama years that rhetoric may not always match action.
In sum, though, her purpose was to paint Trump as a menace to the country and herself as an experienced, sober leader.
She succeeded entirely with the former, and to the surprise of many of her critics, made a strong argument for the latter. That should be of comfort to the millions of Republicans and independents who cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump.
Write Jennifer Rubin, who writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, at Jrubinblogger@gmail.com