Hillary Clinton declared herself the Democratic presidential nominee last night, delivering an impassioned speech basking in the historic status of becoming the first woman to lead a major American political party.
Surrounded by a cheering crowd in Brooklyn, Clinton celebrated the latest primary votes that helped her clinch the nomination as a history-making event in the long march of the women's movement.
"Thanks to you, we have reached a milestone. ... We all owe so much to who came before," Clinton told the crowd. She then turned swiftly to attacking GOP presumptive nominee Donald Trump, declaring him a "bully" and someone who would "take America backwards."
That includes Trump's position on climate change, she said.
"We believe we need to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century, not insist that climate change is a hoax," Clinton said.
She also praised her Democratic opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and made a pitch for unity by asking his supporters to join her campaign.
Clinton easily captured California, the night's biggest prize, with 56 percent of the vote compared with Sanders' 43.1 percent. She also won in New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota. Sanders harnessed victories in North Dakota and Montana but failed to rally the sweeping wins across California and other states that he hoped would compel superdelegates to abandon Clinton.
Earlier this week, Clinton secured the 2,383 delegates she needs to become the presumptive Democratic nominee.
The White House issued a statement congratulating Clinton "for securing the delegates necessary to clinch the Democratic nomination for president" and praising "her historic campaign."
President Obama, meanwhile, will meet with Sanders tomorrow "to continue their conversation about the significant issues at stake in this election that matter most to America's working families," the statement said.
Paul Bledsoe, a former climate aide in the Clinton White House, said Hillary Clinton's glancing reference to climate change last night could portend future attacks against Trump before November.
"This clearly foreshadows an aggressive effort by the Clinton campaign to use Trump's climate denial as a key component of a larger narrative painting Trump as either deluded or lying, but in each case a profound danger to the American public," Bledsoe said in an email.
Sanders, raising his fist as he took the stage in Santa Monica, Calif., a few hours after Clinton's speech, vowed to continue fighting until the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July.
"I am pretty good in arithmetic, and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight, but we will continue to fight for every vote and every delegate," he said.
Sanders made little effort to stop the crowd from booing at the mention of Clinton's name, but also did not criticize her. Rather, he took pains throughout his 15-minute speech to cast the ultimate fight as one against Trump and toward a progressive national platform.
"The American people, in my view, will never support a candidate whose major theme is bigotry," Sanders said.
He urged supporters to continue the fight in "transforming our country," citing a long list of issues, from alleviating poverty to fixing campaign finance reform and a "broken" criminal justice system to health care and immigration reform.
Sanders did not include climate change on the list, though he has been outspoken on the issue.
Reporter Evan Lehmann contributed.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500