Hillary Clinton told a group of veterans on Monday that even she needs to get used to the fact she could become the first female commander-in-chief in November, an unusual nod to trepidation around her gender by the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Clinton, speaking at the 117th Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the Charlotte Convention Center, also subtly railed against Republican nominee Donald Trump, questioning his affinity for foreign dictators and comments about prisoners of war. She did so, though, without mentioning Trump once.
“I know that this is the first time that one of our major parties has nominated a woman,” Clinton said. “I know that it takes a little getting used to, even for me.”
The former secretary of state added, “But here is what I want you to know, I will get up every single day in the White House doing everything I possibly can to protect our country, to treat our men and women in uniform with the care and concern and respect they deserve, to make good on our nation’s promises to our veterans. That is how I was raised, that is what I have done, and I promise you that’s what I will do.”
Clinton’s campaign has embraced the historic nature of her candidacy, something she didn’t do during her failed 2008 presidential run. She launched her presidential bid last year highlighting the fact that she was a grandmother and that electing her would break the “highest glass ceiling” in American politics.
But Clinton aides also know that the first woman president and commander-in-chief could raise questions for veterans, many of whom served in combat without women in leadership positions. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced late last year that all military combat positions were being opened to women, a move Clinton heralded.
Clinton also used the speech to bash Trump without actually using the nominee’s name.
“One thing you will never hear from me is praises for dictators and strongmen who have no love for America,” Clinton said, a nod to the fact that Trump has said positive things about Russian President Vladimir Putin and late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Clinton also touted her relationship with Arizona Sen. John McCain, noting that they worked together to raise funds for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
During the Republican primary, Trump said that McCain “was not a hero,” despite the fact that he spent over five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
“He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said, a comment that roiled Republicans and Democrats alike.
On Monday, Clinton said, “I believe he and all Americans prisoners of war are heroes and deserve the respect that that entails.”
Clinton’s speech, though, received just a polite response from the veterans assembled at the convention. While they clapped throughout the speech, the remarks did not receive a raucous response.
Clinton, brandishing her military bona fides, noted that she was endorsed by Retired Marine General John Allen on Monday morning and told the audience that Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whom she picked to be her vice president last week, has a son who is deploying Monday to “help defend our NATO allies in Europe.”
Using his service to bash Trump, who suggested last week that the United States would not honor the NATO treaty, Clinton said, “That is how committed he is and many other are to our alliances. And we should be too. After all, America’s word has to mean something.”