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Clinton Draws Sharp Contrasts With Trump In Economic Speech


While the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump wrestled this week with a poor fundraising report and a shake-up in his leadership team, Hillary Clinton today tried to focus her campaign on general election issues, namely the economy. NPR's Tamara Keith is following the Clinton campaign in Columbus, Ohio.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hillary Clinton spent a little time talking about her own economic proposals, which she said can be found on her website.


HILLARY CLINTON: And I do admit it is a little wonky...


CLINTON: ...But, I have this old-fashioned idea that if you're running for president, you should say what you want to do.

KEITH: And how you'd pay for it. And with that, Clinton turned to the main point of her speech, a blistering critique of Donald Trump's economic ideas and his record as a businessman. Much like Clinton's foreign-policy speech in California earlier this month, this one was mostly about building a case that Donald Trump is unfit to be president.


CLINTON: Just like he shouldn't have his finger on the button, he shouldn't have his hands on our economy.

KEITH: Clinton criticized Trump's suggestion that he would put tariffs on goods from Mexico and China and said his statement that he would maybe want to negotiate the government's debt would hurt the nation's credibility and the stability of the global economy. She called him the king of debt, a term Trump has used to describe himself.


CLINTON: Now, maybe Donald feels differently because he made a fortune filing bankruptcies and stiffing his creditors. I'll get to his business practices in a minute. But the United States of America doesn't do business Trump's way.

KEITH: And when she did get to his business practices, Clinton didn't hold back.


CLINTON: He's written a lot of books about business. They all seem to end at Chapter 11.

KEITH: Clinton criticized his business bankruptcies. She highlighted the many times he's been sued by people who say Trump didn't pay them for work completed, and she presented Trump University as a microcosm of Trump's campaign as a whole.


CLINTON: Those promises you're hearing from him at his campaign rallies, they are the same promises he made to his customers at Trump University. Now they're suing him for fraud.

KEITH: As Clinton spoke, Trump's newly-constituted rapid-response operation sent out several press releases followed later by tweets. The campaign accused Clinton of using the State Department as her private hedge fund and defended Trump University. In one tweet, Trump stood up for his use of bankruptcy protection, saying, quote, "I am the king of debt. That has been great for me as a businessman but is bad for the country. I made a fortune off of debt. We'll fix U.S."

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a free market economist and president of the American Action Forum, watched Clinton's speech.

DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN: I think it is sensible to be very concerned about the idea of starting a trade war. I think it's sensible to simply dismiss as unacceptable the idea we'd renegotiate the federal debt. Those are fair criticism. I think the Trump campaign should take them to heart.

KEITH: But Holtz-Eakin thinks Hillary Clinton has work to do as well.

HOLTZ-EAKIN: She has some obligation to develop a central animating theme. Why is it that she is running for president and how will she deliver better growth? It's one thing to say, my husband did it. It's another thing for her to explain how she will.

KEITH: Tomorrow Clinton will deliver another speech on the economy where her campaign says she'll get into more detail about her own proposals. Trump plans to give a speech about why he thinks Clinton deserves the nickname Crooked Hillary. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Columbus, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.