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Hillary Clinton's Inner Wonk Emerges in Her Big Speech

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton delivers her acceptance speech. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton delivers her acceptance speech. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a work-woman-like acceptance speech packed with the obligatory rhetoric, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday night admitted what many had long suspected: That she is more at home discussing the minutia of Washington policy than she is on the campaign stump under pressure to bare her soul.

Clinton’s speech touching all bases in domestic and national security policy capsulized her resume as first lady, senator and secretary of State, declaring “through all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part.”

Few presidential candidates in the past could be imagined saying, as Clinton did, “I sweat the details of policy, whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities or the cost of your prescription drugs." Such in-the-weeds governing facts represent “not just a detail if it's your kid, if it's your family. It's a big deal,” Clinton said. “And it should be a big deal to your president, too.”

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Accusing Republican opponent Donald Trump of omitting detail about his policy plans, Clinton said, “You might have noticed I love talking about mine.”

Clinton made it clear that if she wins the Oval Office, the agenda will differ 180 degrees from what Trump has been promising. “We will not build a wall, instead we will build an economy where everyone who wants a job can get one,” she said. “We will build a path to citizenship for immigrants,” suggesting that under a Hillary Clinton administration, we shouldn’t look for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be assigned to deport undocumented immigrants. “It would be self-defeating and inhumane to try to kick them out,” Clinton said.

Perhaps Clinton’s highest-impact promise for federal agencies was her vow that “In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business and infrastructure,” she said.

That would rival the 2009 Recovery Act in creating multi-agency activity (assuming Congress cooperated in paying for it by, as she said, collecting a “fair share of taxes” from Wall Street, corporations and the super rich).

The Democrat with 25 years in the public eye bemoaned the fact that there is “so much paralysis in Washington.” She reminded her varying audiences how the founding fathers found courage to “stand up to a king” when “they began listening to each other, compromising, finding common purpose.”

How is she going to get it done and break through the gridlock in Washington? “I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people,” she said. “We are stronger when we work with allies abroad and care for vets at home.”

Clinton sidled up to the armed services. Decrying Trump’s characterization of the military as “disaster,” she called the warfighters “a national treasure.” Answering Trump’s boast that he knows more about ISIS than the generals, she declared, “No Donald, you don’t.”

The link to the federal workforce is subtle, but agency employees might have some reason to feel included in Clinton’s declaration, “Americans don't say ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say, ‘we'll fix it together!’ ”

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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