Hillary Clinton photo

Remarks at the Kent State Student Recreation Center in Kent, Ohio

October 31, 2016

Hello, Kent State! And Happy Halloween everybody! It's great to be back in Ohio – even if, even if the World Series is making life very stressful for Cubs fans everywhere.

I want to thank Bruce Blair for that introduction, and for his service to our nation. I think every American should hear your story over the next 8 days before they vote. I also want to thank everyone who was part of the pre-program. In particular, let me thank Senator Sherrod Brown, such a great senator, my dear friend and great congressman Tim Ryan, State Representative John Boccieri, State Representative Kathleen Clyde, and let me thank the Kent Clarks, the acapella group that sang during the pre-program!

My friends, we are about to enter the final week of this election, so I wanted to come back to Ohio, one of the most competitive and consequential battlegrounds in the country, to talk about what's at stake in this election. But let me start with this. I'm sure a lot of you may be asking what this new email story is about and why in the world the FBI would decide to jump into an election with no evidence of any wrongdoing with just days to go. That's a good question!

And first of all, for those of you who are concerned about my using personal email, I understand and as I've said, I'm not making excuses. I said it was a mistake and I regret it and now they apparently want to look at emails of one of my staffers and by all means, they should look at them. And I am sure they will reach the same conclusion they did when they looked at my emails for the last year. There is no case here. And they said it wasn't even a close call and I think most people have decided a long time ago what they think about all of this.

Now what people are focused on is choosing the next President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America. And did any of you see the debates? Well, I think it was important because I had a chance to talk about my 30 years of public service and my plans for our country. And then people could weigh that against what my opponent has done and said. I am running against a man who says he doesn't understand why we can't use nuclear weapons. He actually said, 'Then why are we making them?' And he wants more countries to have nuclear weapons. Japan, South Korea, even Saudi Arabia. Imagine nuclear weapons smack in the middle of the Middle East.

And if you're telling yourself he'll surround himself with smart people who'll stop these crazy ideas, remember this: When he asked who he consults on foreign policy, Donald Trump said he didn't need to consult because he said and I quote, 'I have a very good brain.' He said he knows more about ISIS than our generals do. No, he does not. And of course, the people Donald Trump has had around him include two men whose activities are reportedly being investigated for their ties to Russia -- Vladimir Putin and Putin's allies.

So, in these last days, let's not get distracted from the real choice in this election and the consequences for your future. I started saying last June, I believe, that Donald Trump has proven himself temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief. And I've got to tell you, I did not take any pleasure in saying that. I have known, I have known for years now people who ran for President, Republicans and Democrats. And I had my differences with Republicans and even with Democrats, but I never doubted their fitness to serve. Donald Trump is different. That's as serious as it gets.

So today, I want to talk about our national security. Because when the election is over and people wake up on November 9th, we will have picked the person who will carry the responsibility for all these weighty decisions. And that should really convince anyone how high the stakes really are in this election. And I just want to focus on three of the most crucial questions facing the next President: Can you be trusted to command our nuclear arsenal and make literally life and death decisions about war and peace? How do you handle a crisis? And do you know the difference between our allies and our adversaries?

We'll start with nuclear weapons. Now, I know there are some who will say that any discussion of this topic could be fear-mongering, but I don't think so and in part of what you just heard from Bruce Blair. When dozens of retired nuclear launch officers publicly state that Donald Trump should, and I quote, 'not have his finger on the button,' then this is a topic that can't be avoided. And as I've said, Donald has repeatedly suggested that more countries should have nuclear weapons. He must not realize or care that the more nuclear material there is in the world, the more likely terrorists are to get their hands on it -- or that someone will miscalculate and start a war that can't be stopped. And when a few more countries go nuclear, their neighbors will feel pressure to do so as well.

One of the reasons I worked so hard to impose sanctions on Iran so that we could get them to the negotiating table was so we would not have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and I am proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear weapons program. But even the prospect of an actual nuclear war doesn't seem to bother Donald Trump. 'Good luck, enjoy yourselves, folks,' was what he had to say about a potential nuclear conflict in Asia.

I wonder if he knows that a single nuclear warhead can kill millions of people. These are weapons today far more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

To talk so casually, so cavalierly about mass annihilation is truly appalling. President Ronald Reagan once said -- and he worked hard for arms control and I admired what he did working with the Soviet Union -- and he once said he feared, and this is a quote from President Reagan, 'some fool or some maniac or some accident triggering the kind of war that is the end of the line for all of us.' That has been the fear and the commitment of Democratic and Republican presidents since the dawn of the Atomic Age.

So what would he think about Donald Trump, who says he wants to be, and I quote, 'unpredictable' about using the most powerful weapons ever produced? And here's the thing with nuclear weapons – as Bruce told you, when the President gives the order, that's it. There's no veto for Congress, no veto by the Joint Chiefs. The officers in the silos have no choice but to fire. And that can take as little as four minutes. That's why all those retired launch officers stepped forward and said Donald Trump should never be put in charge of our nuclear arsenal.

Earlier you heard from one of them, Bruce Blair, and his story is worth remembering. In 1973, Bruce was a young military officer working in an underground bunker in Montana. His job was to launch as many as 50 nuclear weapons if the President ever gave the order. Then one night in October, as the United States and the Soviet Union squared off over an escalating conflict in the Middle East, the emergency message he had trained for arrived: prepare for nuclear war. Like other American officers in bunkers and submarines and bombers around the world, Bruce and his colleagues started the process because that was their duty. They unlocked the safe, took out the launch codes and the keys, and then strapped into their chairs to brace for the shockwaves that would come if a Russian warhead detonated above them. Then they waited for the final order from the President. Thankfully, it never came. But when Bruce looks at Donald Trump, and sees his hair-trigger temper, and he thinks about what it felt like inside that bunker that night. As I've said many times, a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

And that brings me to the second question I think voters should pose to both candidates: How do you handle a crisis? We've seen in this campaign that Donald Trump loses his cool at the slightest provocation. When he's gotten a tough question from a reporter. When he's challenged in a debate. When he sees a protestor at a rally. When he's confronted with his own words. So imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. Imagine his advisors afraid to tell him what he doesn't want to hear, racing against his legendarily short attention span to lay out life-and-death choices too complex to be reduced to a single tweet. And then imagine him plunging us into a war because somebody got under his very thin skin.

Now thankfully, he's never been in a position where he had to help make life-and-death decisions for our country. But there was one national crisis where we did get a good look at how Donald Trump handles himself. Donald is a New Yorker, and his finest moment in this campaign was when he defended New York against Ted Cruz's attacks in a debate. And then he invoked the days after 9/11, when New Yorkers really came together and took care of each other. And I couldn't agree more. That's why it was so upsetting to learn what Donald was actually doing on 9/11. After the world watched with horror as the Twin Towers fell, he called in to a New York TV station. And even on that horrible day, when thousands of people lost their lives, he couldn't stop himself from pointing out that now, because the towers had fallen, a building he owned was now the tallest in Lower Manhattan. What kind of a person brags at a moment like that? I'll tell you: someone who should never set foot in the Oval Office and serve as Commander in Chief.

For me, I take this very personally, my friends. Because I was one of New York's senators along with Chuck Schumer on 9/11. He and I were on the ground the very next day, meeting with the Governor, the Mayor, emergency officials. And I will never forget the sight of Ground Zero. The thick smoke made it hard to breathe or see. Some of the firefighters and other first responders we met had been on duty nonstop since the planes hit the towers. They had all lost friends. In a makeshift command center, we were briefed on the damage, and it was clear we were going to need a lot of help to recover New York, and we were going to have to really make it our absolute mission to not only rebuild New York but to keep America safe.

That's what I did for eight years as a senator. I never stopped fighting to keep our country safer and to ensure that first responders got the medical care they needed. And I think it's important to reflect on what each of us has done in moments like that. Because a lot of the crises that come at a president are not predicted. They happen. I'll tell you a quick story. It was after President-elect Obama asked me to be secretary of state but before the inauguration. And I got a call to come to an emergency meeting in the White House in the Situation Room. And the new Obama national security team was on one side of table, and the outgoing Bush national security team was on the other side. And the Bush Administration had gotten credible intelligence that there was going to be an attack at our inauguration.

So even before we were sworn in to do our jobs, we were faced with helping to make such a consequential decision. It really matters what your experience has, what your values are, whether you can be counted on to make that decision. You learn a lot about people in moments like that. And as I sat there with the pressure on, having to think through in my own head, how we evaluated this intelligence, how we did everything we could to preserve our inauguration of our first African American president on the Mall in Washington.

We made the decision to go forward, obviously. Some of you might have been there. But we also did everything we could to double our efforts to find out about the intelligence and to secure the hundreds of thousands of people who would be there. So you have to ask yourself: in a crisis, who would you trust? Who will listen to good advice, keep a level head and make the right call? Because that's the person you want as our president and Commander in Chief.

Now let's get to the third question for all of the voters to consider about each of us. Do you know the difference between our allies and our adversaries? Now this may seem like an easy question. If you got it on an exam, I think you'd be able to answer it. But apparently it's hard for Donald. He has picked fights with our friends. I mean the President of Mexico, the British prime minister, the German chancellor, pretty much the entire nation of Japan… and he even picked a fight with the Pope. And at the same time he is praising tyrants and dictators like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Un in North Korea and Bashar al-Assad for their supposed strong leadership. He even praised the Chinese government for massacring protesters in Tiananmen Square. Trump has repeatedly suggested he would abandon our allies in Europe and Asia.

He has called NATO, quote, 'obsolete.' Obsolete? NATO is the greatest military alliance in the history of the world. And it's based on something called Article V, which says, 'An attack on one is an attack on all.' And Article V has only been invoked one time: when our allies came to our defense after 9/11. We still have NATO allies fighting side by side, working side by side with American troops in Afghanistan. They joined us in going after Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. Now we're supposed to tell them we won't have their back?

And by the way—right now, our NATO allies are helping identify and track terrorists who threaten America and Europe. They're hosting radar and missile defense installations that protect us against potential threats from Iran and elsewhere. And as our NATO forces in Afghanistan stand shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops, they share the risks and burdens. Now they're moving into the Baltic States to deter Russian aggression.

Treating our allies like the small businesses and contractors that Trump exploited and stiffed in Atlantic City – hanging them out to dry -- would make our country and our world less safe. And it would play right into the hands of Russia and China, which are envious of our alliances and eager to see them weaken or fail. But maybe that's the point. Because what's most striking about all of this -- and I would argue most important for voters to consider – is the relationship between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As former Secretary Madeleine Albright put it, and I quote her, 'We have never seen a mind meld of the kind between the Russian leadership and a candidate for the presidency of the United States.' Michael Morell, who ran the CIA and grew up just a few miles from here, has said that Putin is manipulating Donald. Putin is a trained intelligence officer from the old KGB. He knows he can use flattery to get into Donald's head -- to make Donald the Kremlin's puppet. And It seems to be working.

Donald has signaled to Putin that he will let Russia do whatever it wants, from Ukraine to Syria and beyond. He's even said Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama. And it gets worse. The U.S. intelligence community has now confirmed that the Russian government, which means Putin, is directing cyber-attacks against targets in the United States to influence the outcome of our election.

So ask yourself, why would Putin be trying to get Donald Trump elected President? Could it be because of all of the nice things Donald has said about him, or the fact that he's promised to adopt pro-Kremlin policies, or maybe because of his extensive business dealings with Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin? Since Donald still won't release his tax returns, and don't hold your breath, we don't know the full extent of his business relationships --but what we do know is disturbing.

And we know this: We are dealing with something unprecedented in the history of our country. A foreign adversary trying to influence our presidential election. That should scare everyone, Democrat, Republican, and Independent. With the election just eight days away, this can't wait any longer. Donald Trump should immediately disclose all of his ties and connections to the Kremlin and its associates. The American people deserve to know the full extent of these links and how they relate to what the Russians are doing in our election.

When you step back and take it all in, it's no surprise that 50 Republican national security experts wrote an open letter saying that they will not vote for Donald Trump, because he would be – in their words – 'the most reckless President in American history.' It's no surprise that not a single former President, Secretary of State or Defense, or National Security Advisor from either party has endorsed him. It's no surprise that Bob Gates, who served eight presidents over 50 years, Democrats and Republicans alike, has said Trump is, and I quote, 'beyond repair… stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government… temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform… unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.'

I hope you and voters across Ohio and America will think about all of these national security issues when you cast your vote in this election. Think about what it takes to lead -- and how we want to secure the safety of our country, our children and our grandchildren. And who is best to do that. So make no mistake, that really is what is on the ballot this year. It's not just my name and Donald Trump's name. It's our future. Our security. Our values. It's who we are as a country.

Donald Trump has a dark and divisive vision for America that could tear our country apart. But the good news is: There's another vision for America. Instead of dark and divisive, it's hopeful and inclusive and optimistic and unified. And it is big-hearted, not small-minded. It's about lifting people up, not tearing each other down. It's a vision that says, as I believe in my heart that we are stronger together.

Millions of people across our country are standing up and saying: We believe in an America that is great because it is good. That is Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Because we believe in an America where women are respected. An America where veterans are honored, parents are supported, and workers are paid fairly … an America where marriage is a right and discrimination is wrong…. an America that leads in the world and lives up to our values… where everyone counts and everyone has a place. Where the American dream is big enough for everyone.

This goes way beyond policies and partisanship. We're talking about what it really means to be an American in the 21st century. About the basic lessons we want to teach boys and girls, kids and grandkids. It turns out, if you dig deep enough, through all the mud of politics, eventually you hit something hard and true. A foundation of fundamental values that unite us as Americans – basic beliefs about equality and opportunity and freedom and common decency.

That's something to defend – and to build on. And, in the end, that's what this election is all about. Here in Ohio, you can make the difference. Early voting has already begun. So now is the time. Every phone call you make, every door you knock, moves us forward. You can go to hillaryclinton.com, and sign up to volunteer. Or text J-O-I-N to 4-7-2-4-6 to do the same.

Sometimes -- if you have studied history -- you know the fate of the greatest nations comes down to single moments in time. This is one of those make-or-break moments for the United States. And it truly is in your hands, as it should be. When your kids and grandkids ask you what you did in 2016, when everything was on the line, I hope you will be able to say: I voted for a better, stronger, fairer America. A place where our future will be created and charted by people will have confidence that that the best days of America are still ahead of us. Particularly young people who I believe absolutely should help make that future!

So let's come together, let us make clear that we are going to stand up for an America that we believe in because that America believes in us. And we are going to prove once and for all that love trumps hate. Thank you.

NOTE: Remarks as delivered.

Hillary Clinton, Remarks at the Kent State Student Recreation Center in Kent, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/319841

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