Republican speakers used the first night of their party's convention to argue that America is in imminent danger from a host of looming threats that can be controlled only if Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton in the presidential election this fall.

"The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president," said retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of President Obama's Defense Intelligence Agency.

"From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton."

The convention's prime time speeches — with a theme of "Make America Safe Again" — touched on rebuilding the military, defeating terrorism, improving border security and reforming the country's immigration policies.

But long sections of the remarks were focused on Clinton's past actions instead of Trump's future promises.

Numerous speakers took shots at the Democratic presidential nominee for her mishandling of emails while serving as Obama's secretary of state. And about 30 minutes of the three-plus hours of speeches were set aside solely to discuss Americans killed in the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya, complete with chants of "lock her up" from the crowd.

"I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son," said Patricia Smith, mother of a U.S. foreign service officer killed in the attack. "For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton."

Others painted Clinton as an extension of the failed foreign policy strategy of Obama, calling for a more assertive and aggressive military stance.

"There's a void in the world: a deficit that cannot be filled by others," said Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the first female veteran to serve in the Senate. "Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say 'enough is enough.'"

Earlier in the day, Clinton surrogates predicted and pushed back against most of the criticisms, offering their own attacks on Trump's temperament and qualifications.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called the Republican nominee's national security platform "not believable and dangerous for the country," citing past promises to ban Muslims as the most offensive example.

Trump made only a brief appearance during the evening, introducing his wife's speech but promising "we're going to win so big" in November.

Few of the speakers offered specifics on Trump's policies, but did voice support for Trump's general plans to loosen rules of engagement for troops deployed overseas, his promises to wipe out Islamic State group militants, and restore military strength.

"Together Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton brought us ISIS and brought down Benghazi," said Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., who served as a Navy SEAL for 22 years. "I shudder to think what she will bring if she is sitting in the Oval Office."

Trump is expected to address the full convention Thursday night, and reiterate the broad outlines of his national security promises. Clinton and the Democrats will have a full chance for rebuttal at their party's convention in Philadelphia next week.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at

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