If former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper becomes president, he says he will protect the nation by rebuilding international partnerships fractured by President Trump.

Hickenlooper rolled out his national security policy in what his campaign billed as a major speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday as a part of the the independent think tank's America in 2020 series. His 25-minute speech was followed by a Q&A with Brian Hanson, the council's vice president of studies. 

The leader with a nice-guy personality said he would lead as "an activist, not a pacifist."

He went on to contrast himself with the current president, who has "shriveled" the nation's security with his sketchy alliances and bombastic approach that has created a "crisis of division" at home and abroad.

"I will rely heavily on our most experienced intelligence, military and diplomatic advisers," Hickenlooper said. "I will expand trade, not restrict it. I will support and speak out for democracy abroad rather than pretend we have no stake in its global success."

Then he pivoted to members of his own party.

"Some Democrats are recoiling from past American foreign policy mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role. I refuse to join their retreat. I will modernize our military, not slash it.”

Foreign policy is perceived as a soft spot in the former Colorado governor's resume. Hickenlooper didn't enter politics, after all, until he was in his 50s, when he was elected mayor of Denver in 2003.

The second plank of his plan is to strengthen cybersecurity, including naming national director to take on the task.

"Trump obsesses about border walls; our cyber firewalls are far more important," Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper said he would favor open and fair trade to build the nation's economic security, and he would build up military and intelligence capabilities while fostering human rights.

ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday pressed Hickenlooper to elaborate on some of the points in his foreign policy speech during an interview on ABC News' "This Week."

Citing portions of the speech provided in advance to ABC News, Stephanopoulos wanted to know which Democrats Hickenlooper was calling out when he charged some member of his own party are "recoiling from past American foreign mistakes by looking to withdraw from our global leadership role."

The ever-conciliatory Hickenlooper refused to say.

"Well, I don’t want to name names, but they’re — but they have withdrawn from, you know, they would have the United States withdraw from global engagement, and that makes us less safe," Hickenlooper said.

Undeterred, Stephanopoulos reframed the question, asking if Hickenlooper was calling out any of the 22 other Democrats running for president.

Hickenlooper responded: "Almost all the other Democrats — not all, but many of the other Democrats feel that we should back away from fair and open trade. And I believe that, you know, only through, you know, constant engagement and building up that trade are we going to get to full security."

     

— Colorado Politics staff writer Ernest Luning contributed to this story.

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