Toward the end of his rally here, Donald Trump took some questions from the audience, including an emotional one that revealed something good about him. He then proceeded with an answer that exposed the fundamental defect of his presidential campaign.
The question came from Melissa Young, who noted that in 2005, she won the Miss Wisconsin USA pageant -- which was then a Trump property. She explained that she has an incurable, terminal illness and wanted to remind him of a note he had sent her when she was hospitalized.
Handwritten in gold ink, over an autographed photo, it read, "To one of the bravest women I know. Best wishes."
"I just want to thank you," Young said, struggling to keep her composure. "You saved me in so many ways." Trump nodded sympathetically and asked, "Are you coming along OK?" She answered, "No, sir," but noted gratefully she had gotten financial contributions to pay for her 7-year-old son's college education.
Trump wasn't done. "Hopefully, you're going to be around," he said. "Those doctors are going to be so wrong." After descending the stage to hug her, he said, "It's heartbreaking, but something beautiful is gonna happen. You watch."
We're used to hearing Trump boast of everything he will do. But this was a stretch even for him. He was essentially telling a dying woman that she will be cured.
His attitude was: "I don't want you to die. I'm used to getting what I want. So you will not die." Oblivious to the reality of her condition, he insisted on conveying false hope.
Maybe it shouldn't have come as a surprise, after a Trump speech that was short on specifics and long on hype. "We're going to build a wall, and Mexico's going to pay for the wall," he claimed. On veterans: "We're gonna save a fortune, and they're gonna get great service."
Obamacare? "We will replace it with something so much better and so much less expensive." Ukraine? "Don't worry about Ukraine. Ukraine's gonna be fine."
Trump doesn't have a campaign platform. He has a Christmas list, and he believes that Santa Claus will bring him everything on it. He makes solving the nation's problems sound easy.
Hillary Clinton does not believe that. Earlier in the day, she attended a community forum on gun violence prevention at the Tabernacle Community Baptist Church in Milwaukee, sharing the stage with two women who have suffered their own tragedies.
Annette Nance-Holt is a Chicago Fire Department battalion chief whose 16-year-old son was shot and killed on a Chicago bus. Geneva Reed-Veal's daughter Sandra Bland died in jail, an apparent suicide, after being arrested in Texas by an officer who was charged with perjury for his account of the traffic stop.
Clinton spent more time listening than speaking. When she spoke to the almost entirely African-American audience, she was sober and knowledgeable, noting, "We lose, on average, 90 people a day from gun violence. That is 33,000 people a year."
She expressed support for requiring background checks on all gun purchases and repealing a law that granted gun makers and sellers protection from some lawsuits. She quoted from the Bible: "Let us not grow weary of doing good, because in due time we will harvest."
Reed-Veal recounted the private meeting the former secretary of state had in Chicago with a dozen families whose loved ones have died from gun violence or in police custody, where she let them tell their stories and took notes for two hours.
Clinton, it's obvious, is an accomplished listener. That may be one of her flaws as a candidate, particularly this year. She often gives the impression of someone who pays full attention to what she's being told so she can tailor her response to what the person wants to hear. Her remedies typify the dull incrementalism that frustrates voters yearning for dramatic change.
Trump leads his followers to think fixing health care will be easy. Bernie Sanders gives the same impression. Clinton, who as first lady labored to formulate and enact a health insurance program -- only to lose in the end -- knows that it, like most public policy challenges, is very hard.
This day, Trump enthralled voters with visions of instant magic. Clinton, on the altar of a church alongside mothers grieving for their dead children, knew better than to promise earthly miracles.
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