By Michael A. Memoli
Hillary Clinton pitched herself as an example of "steady, experienced leadership" and bipartisanship Sunday, just hours after the Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, declined to say whether he thought Donald Trump was qualified to be president.
Speaking at a gathering of mayors here, Clinton said the market turmoil that has followed Britain's vote to leave the European Union showed the need for pragmatic, nonpartisan problem solving _ a quality she said she would bring to the White House.
In the aftermath of the so-called Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom on Thursday, Clinton said her priority was protecting Americans from the negative effects of "tumult and uncertainty."
She never named Trump in her remarks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors summer meeting. But she said the situation requires leaders at all levels of government "who understand that bombastic comments in turbulent times can actually cause more turbulence," and who will "put the interest of American people ahead of their personal business interests."
The remarks fit into an emerging pattern of Democrats seeking to associate Trump in the public mind with economic chaos and upheaval.
McConnell's comments won't do much to rebut that Democratic attack. Asked on ABC's "This Week" whether he considered Trump qualified for the presidency, the Kentucky senator demurred.
"Look, I'll leave that to the American people to decide. You know, he won the Republican nomination fair and square," McConnell said.
"He got more votes than anybody else against a whole lot of well-qualified candidates. And so our primary voters have made their decision as to who they want to be the nominee. The American people will be able to make that decision in the fall."
His comments came after a week in which Trump suffered the defections of several high-profile Republicans. Conservative commentator George Will announced he was quitting the GOP because of Trump. Henry M. Paulson, the Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, endorsed Clinton, saying that Trump was peddling "ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism." And Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush and an adviser to Presidents Ford, Reagan and George W. Bush, added to the growing number of GOP foreign policy figures backing Clinton.
McConnell's remarks also came on a day when two new polls showed Clinton continuing to lead Trump, although they differed on the size of the margin. An average of all recent polls shows Clinton leading by about 7 percentage points.
In her remarks here, Clinton reaffirmed her commitment to alliances with the United Kingdom and Europe, calling America's engagement in the world through those alliances "among our greatest national assets, now more than ever."
"We've got to be clear about this: No one should be confused about America's commitment to Europe. Not an autocrat in the Kremlin, not a presidential candidate on a Scottish golf course," she said.
Trump has questioned the continued value of the NATO alliance among the U.S. and its European partners.
Thursday's referendum has led to speculation about to what extent the voter unease in Britain and concerns there about immigration will be replicated in the U.S. election.
The United Kingdom and the United States are different countries "economically, politically, demographically," though they do share common interests, Clinton said.
"Just as we've seen there are many frustrated people in Britain, we know there are frustrated people here at home too," she said.
"I've seen it, I've heard it, I know it. That's why I've worked hard to find solutions to the economic challenges we face."
Clinton went on to highlight aspects of her economic agenda, including mention of a major investment in infrastructure that brought the local elected officials from both parties to their feet in a standing ovation.
Over the last week especially, Clinton has delved into the finer points of her platform _ acknowledging that many are too "wonky" for some but emphasizing the need for such detail given Americans' sense of uncertainty.
She contrasted the nonpartisan approach to government by local leaders with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, which she said feeds the kind of voter unrest manifested in Britain.
She pointed to the continued stalemate over gun legislation in Congress and the Senate's refusal to act on President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
On guns, Republican leaders "were playing to the loudest voices instead of the most people," she said, and the GOP refusal to even give Garland a hearing "is part of what is driving the frustration on the part of so many Americans."
Clinton said many mayors have joked that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, entered the White House as president "and left as a mayor," because of the partnerships he made with them. It was a model she said she admired and vowed to emulate.
"I can imagine that some of our Republican friends here today may have questions about whether you can work with a Democrat or work with me personally," she said. "Now we will disagree. I disagree with some of my Democratic friends. But I think there's much more we can agree on."
As first lady, senator and secretary of State, she had shown that she could work across the aisle, she said.
"I know we can't get big things done unless we work together," she said. "So I intend to push for an agenda that I think would really help the people of this country ... . But I will also always listen. I think that is a lost art."
(c)2016 Tribune Co.