Remembering a Hero, 15 Years After 9/11 ‘With this bandanna,’ Welles Crowther said, ‘I’m gonna change the world.’ And he did.

What do I think about when I think about that day? The firemen who climbed “the stairway to Heaven” with 50, 60 pounds of gear. The people who called from Windows on the World and said: “I just want you to know I love you.” The men on the plane who tried to take the cockpit of Flight 93 before it went down in a Pennsylvania field: “Let’s roll.”

And I think about Welles Crowther, the man in the red bandanna.

He was 24, from Nyack, N.Y. He played lacrosse at Boston College, graduated and got an internship at Sandler O’Neill, the investment bank. In two years he was a junior associate on the trading desk. He worked in the south tower of the World Trade Center, on the 104th floor.

When United Flight 175 hit that tower at 9:03 a.m., it came in at a tilt, ripping through floors 78 through 84. Many of those who never got out were on those floors, or the ones above. Welles Crowther had already called his mother, Alison, and left a voicemail: “I want you to know that I’m OK.” Only one stairwell was clear. He found it. Most people would have run for their lives, but he started running for everyone else’s.

Welles & Allison Crowther

Welles Crowther and his mother, Alison, in 1999.

Welles was beloved—bright, joyous, grounded. Family was everything to him. He idolized his father, Jefferson, a banker and volunteer fireman. They went to the firehouse together when Welles was a child. Welles would clean the trucks, getting in close where no one else could fit. One Sunday when Welles was 7 or 8 his mother dressed him for church in his first suit. His father had a white handkerchief in his breast pocket. Could he have one? Jefferson put one in Welles’s front pocket and then took a colored one and put it in Welles’s back pocket. One’s for show, he said, the other’s for blow.

“Welles kept it with him, a connection to his father,” said Alison Crowther this week by phone. “He carried a red bandanna all his life.” It was a talisman but practical, too. It could clean up a mess. When he’d take it from his pocket at Sandler O’Neill they’d tease him. What are you, a farmer? That is from Tom Rinaldi’s lovely book “The Red Bandanna,” which came out this week. He’d tease back: “With this bandanna I’m gonna change the world.”

As Welles went down the stairwell he saw what happened on the 78th floor sky lobby. People trying to escape had been waiting for elevators when the plane hit. It was carnage—fire, smoke, bodies everywhere. A woman named Ling Young, a worker for the state tax department, sat on the floor, badly burned and in shock. From out of the murk she heard a man’s voice: “I found the stairs. Follow me.”

“There was something she heard in the voice, an authority, compelling her to follow,” Mr. Rinaldi writes. Ms. Young stood, and followed. She saw that the man was carrying a woman. Eighteen floors down the air began to clear. He gently placed the woman down and told them both to continue walking down. Then he turned and went back upstairs to help others.

Judy Wein of Aon Corporation had also been in the 78th floor. She too was badly injured and she too heard the voice: “Everyone who can stand now, stand now. If you can help others, do so.” He guided her and others to the stairwell.

Apparently Welles kept leading people down from the top floors to the lower ones, where they could make their way out. Then he’d go up to find more. No one knows how many. The fire department credits him with five saved lives.

He never made it home. His family hoped, grieved, filled out forms. On the Friday after 9/11 Alison stood up from her desk and suddenly she knew Welles was there, right behind her. She could feel his energy, his force; it was him. She didn’t turn. She just said: Thank you. She knew he was saying he was OK. After that she didn’t dare hope he’d be found alive because she knew he wouldn’t.

They found him six months later, in the lobby of the south tower. He’d made it all the way down. He was found in an area with many firefighters’ remains. It had been the FDNY command post. It was where assistant fire chief Donald Burns was found. He and his men had probably helped evacuate thousands. Welles could have left and saved his own life—they all could have. But they’d all stayed. “He was helping,” said Alison.

The Crowthers never knew what he’d done until Memorial Day weekend 2002. The New York Times carried a minute-by-minute report of what happened in the towers after the planes hit. Near the end it said: “A mysterious man appeared at one point, his mouth and nose covered with a red handkerchief.” It mentioned Ms. Young and Ms. Wein. The Crowthers sent them pictures of Welles.

That was him, they said. Ms. Wein had seen his face when he took the bandanna from his face as the air cleared on the lower floors. Ms. Young said: “He saved my life.”

As a child, Welles Crowther had wanted to be a fireman. Few knew he’d decided to apply for the FDNY while he was still at Sandler. After his father found his application the department did something it had done only once in the 141 years since its founding. It made Welles an honorary member.

His father sometimes felt guilt—maybe taking him to the fire department so much when he was a kid was why Welles died. Alison said no: “That gave him the tools to be the fullest person he was that day.”

She thinks now of something else. The family spent the Labor Day before 9/11 together, at the house in Nyack. All weekend, said Alison, Welles was subdued—“quiet, introspective.” Normally he’d be charging around, playing basketball. At one point he sat with his mother in the living room. “He said, ‘You know, Mom, I don’t know what it is but I know I’m meant to be part of something really big.’ I didn’t get it. Who would get it? But he definitely sensed something was coming.”

I asked Alison Crowther a hard question, embarrassing for a parent to answer: How do you make a hero? She paused. “We tried to instill honesty,” she said. “The fearlessness he came with—my husband said he came with that hardware installed. He was this good-hearted little guy, very protective from an early age. Honesty was a big thing with us, and taking responsibility.”

It wasn’t us, she was saying, it was him. It was Welles.

The way I see it, courage comes from love. There’s a big unseen current of love that hums through the world, and some plug into it more than others, more deeply and surely, and they get more power from it. And it fills them with courage. It makes everything possible.

People see the fallen, beat-up world around them and ask: What can I do? Maybe: Be like Welles Crowther. Take your bandanna, change the world.

Can Anxiety Beat Depression in November? Trump inches up in the polls. Perhaps the reason is not him but Hillary.

By tradition the presidential campaign begins in earnest on Labor Day. This year I questioned that premise. Its assumption is that normal people don’t start paying attention until September. That’s probably been true in the past. But this time normal people have been paying attention all year. Donald Trump’s candidacy was a sensation—you couldn’t not see him or hear him. In another way people have been paying attention for a quarter-century, which is how long Hillary Clinton and Mr. Trump have been famous in America. Everyone knows what they think; everyone knows their impression of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump.

But not everyone knows how they’ll vote—him, her, third- or fourth-party, write-in. The polls are tightening and no one is sure why. A Reuters/Ipsos poll through Aug. 29 had Mrs. Clinton at 40%, Mr. Trump at 38% among likely voters. A Rasmussen poll ending Aug. 31 had Mrs. Clinton at 39%, Mr. Trump at 40%. A Fox News poll ending the same day had Mrs. Clinton at 41% and Mr. Trump at 39%. As to the battleground states, a Marquette University Law School poll out this week had Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump 45% to 42% in Wisconsin among those who said they’ll definitely vote in November. That sounds solid, but three weeks ago Mrs. Clinton had a 15-point lead.

Halloween MasksAnd Mr. Trump’s successful trip to Mexico, in which he stood at separate podiums with a president, trading niceties, seeming comfortable—seeming like a normal political figure—followed by his base-rousing immigration speech in Arizona, came after these polls were taken. A Trump supporter told/spun me that it was a Nixon-to-China moment, which it was not. Nixon knew exactly what he was doing and why, the diplomacy of it had been long and secretly arranged, and it wasn’t driven by immediate political need but by America’s strategic requirements.

But if the polls are right, things are moving, and not in Mrs. Clinton’s direction. I’d thought people’s views of Mr. Trump were by now indelible and unchangeable: He’d been branded, by himself. Maybe that’s true. We’ll know in retrospect. But maybe he can nudge his numbers a little. Can Mrs. Clinton?

We’re used to attributing everything by default to Mr. Trump—what’s he done now? But maybe the fact of Trump isn’t driving things, but the central fact of Hillary. It is a fact we all know so well that we factor it in and forget it. It is that people view her as both untruthful and untrustworthy. A Fox News poll out this week said an astounding 74% of respondents said they believe Mrs. Clinton would do anything to be president (68% said the same of Mr. Trump). A Washington Post/ABC News poll also this week showed Mrs. Clinton’s image at an all-time low. Among registered voters, 59% view her unfavorably (60% view Mr. Trump unfavorably). The Post: “If it weren’t for Trump, in fact, Clinton would be the most unpopular major-party presidential nominee in modern American history.” Think of that, in someone well known to Americans for 25 years.

Reading the Fox story reminded me of a moment last February in New Hampshire, during the primaries. It was a weekend night. I was at one of her rallies in a high-school gym in a handsome suburb. It was well-organized—good lighting and security, a buzzy crowd. Mrs. Clinton was introduced and she bounded out—blue pantsuit, well made-up, high-energy, pointing out friends, real or imagined, in the crowd. I thought: Give it to her, she’s 60-something, she’s out in America working the room, making the speech, enacting the joy, when she could be home on a Saturday night watching TV.

Then it struck me. If she weren’t here, she’d be in an empty house in Chappaqua, N.Y., the focus of no eyes—not important, not glamorous, no aides or staffers. I thought: She needs to run, it’s this or reruns on Bravo. I thought: This is why you pick up that there is no overarching purpose, theme or mission to her candidacy—because there isn’t. There is only her need—not to be powerless, not to be away from the center. It’s not The America Project, it’s The Hillary Project.

You see that a lot in politicians, but not always those running for president. That night I think I saw it in her.

This connects in my mind with 1992. By November of that year I thought the close presidential contest would come down to a battle between depression and anxiety. If you imagined picking up a newspaper the morning after the election and saw “Bush Re-elected,” you might feel blue—same old same old, 12 years of Republican rule turning into 16. If it said “Clinton Wins,” you might feel anxiety—we never even heard of this guy until six months ago, an obscure Arkansas governor! I figured that in America anxiety beats depression because it’s the more awake state.

There may be an aspect of that dynamic in this race. Mrs. Clinton is depression: You know exactly who she is, what trouble she brings—she always brings that sack full of scandal—and she won’t make anything better. Mr. Trump is anxiety: If you back him you know you’re throwing the long ball, a real Hail Mary pass to the casino developer and reality TV star who may or may not know how to catch the ball when catching the ball means everything. But he’s entertaining—he scrambles all categories, makes things chaotic. He has fun with his audience.

The crowd Wednesday night in Arizona reacted with joy when he asked if they were ready for the part about Mexico. His own supporters will tell you he may be a little crazy but not Caligula crazy, only drunk-uncle crazy. The Clinton campaign has a strong television ad out that shows Mr. Trump yelling and making faces. It warns at the end that a president only needs one mistake to make things go terribly wrong. It’s the sort of ad that would impress voters already convinced that he’s disqualified by temperament. But others might just think: Yeah, he talks like that sometimes, it’s part of the act.

Last week the pollster Peter Hart did a focus group, for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, of a dozen independent voters in Wisconsin. They saw 2016 as a fear-and-loathing election, loathing Mrs. Clinton (depression) and fearing Mr. Trump (anxiety). They thought Mrs. Clinton would win but described her as a lying and untrustworthy career politician. They saw Mr. Trump as reckless, inexperienced, “a bully and a loudmouth,” in the words of one participant. (Another compared him to the drunk uncle.) They had little optimism about America right now, using words like “political turmoil,” “unrest” and “downhill.” Asked if the 2016 election had a smell what would it be, their answers included “rotten eggs,” “skunk,” “stink” and “garbage.” Asked which political figures they admired in their lifetimes, one said Gerald Ford, one Bill Clinton, and about half said Ronald Reagan. They seemed to miss the idea of character.

Actually there seemed an undertone of fear that we’re not raising Fords and Reagans now, we’re raising Clintons and Trumps and it doesn’t bode well.

A Wounded Boy’s Silence, and the Candidates’ ‘I hate war,’ FDR declared 80 years ago. Why can’t today’s politicians say so?

With the campaign proper about to begin, on Labor Day, a last August thought, a very simple one: War is terrible. It is my impression our candidates for president don’t really know this. They never say it, not in formal speeches or in thinking aloud, in reveries in friendly interviews. I would say of most of America’s political class that they have their heads all screwed up about war, that they approach the subject coolly, as a political and geopolitical matter, and that they see it through prisms of personal political need and ideological gain. They are missing the central fact of it—that it is terrible. Before the election is over it would be good if someone said it.

The thought arises most recently from the harrowing photo and videotape of the 5-year-old boy in Aleppo, Syria. You have seen one or both. His name is Omran Daqneesh and he lived with his parents and three siblings in the rebel-held Qaterji neighborhood, which late Wednesday night last week either Russian or Syrian forces targeted in a brutal airstrike. Omran was pulled from the rubble. He was placed on a seat in the back of an ambulance.

Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh

Five-year-old Omran Daqneesh after being pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria.

The left side of his head was covered in blood. His thick dark hair was stiff from smoke and dust. His legs were marked by soot and what looked like bruises. One report said he’d been in the rubble an hour before they dug him out.

They wouldn’t let the ambulance go until it was full. There was room for more children, and they came. But Omran is the one you can’t stop watching. He stares mutely, like a shocked old man. Photojournalists make flashes of light as they take his picture. No one has—or takes—a moment to call any comfort to him, to the 5-year-old boy as he stares ahead.

He can’t fully see out of his left eye, which seems damaged. Tentatively, calling no attention to himself, he brings his left hand up to his head and touches around for the wound. He seems to find it, then puts his hand down on his legs, as if not to call attention to his wounds.

Watching the videotape, posted on YouTube by an anti-Assad group, you see what is most harrowing. It isn’t only his youth, his aloneness, the blood—it’s that he isn’t crying.

Children, by nature and instinct, cry when they are infants. But as they grow older, 3 and 4 and 5, crying is sometimes more of a decision. Children who know they’re cared for cry in the expectation that someone will comfort them. If by 3 or 4 you haven’t had that, or haven’t had that enough—if circumstances were harsh enough that you couldn’t rely on help or comfort—then you might not cry. Because it won’t bring the help you need, or may in fact bring negative responses.

For all 5 years of his life, Omran Daqneesh lived in a country wracked by civil war, surrounded by the tension, fear and hardship war brings.

Anyway, he didn’t cry. He was taken to a local underground hospital called M10, treated for head wounds and released. There are reports his older brother has since died.

War is terrible. It abuses the innocent and takes their lives, it wastes all kinds of treasure, it kills generations and whole cultures. It strikes me as rather mad that our candidates for commander in chief of the most powerful armed forces in the world don’t ever simply think aloud about this.

About 18 months ago I asked a potential Republican presidential candidate, in conversation, if he hated war. He got the dart-eyed look politicians get when they sense a trick question. This startled me. How do you not know the answer? After a few seconds I said, “This is not a trick question.” I explained I was thinking of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “I hate war,” roughly five years before prosecuting one with unambivalent vigor.

The potential candidate then stuttered that of course he doesn’t like war, but sometimes it’s necessary. Well, yes, sometimes it is. But why would you fear stating that war is hell, and hell ain’t where we want to be?

Afterward, and again this week, I went back to FDR’s famous speech, delivered at Chautauqua, N.Y., Aug. 14, 1936—80 years ago this month. He was “less cheerful,” he admitted, about world events than domestic ones—this at the depth of the Depression. What happens in the world may have an impact on the United States, but we can serve the cause of peace by “setting an example” and following the policy of the good neighbor—“the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others.” Because of this practice “the whole world now knows that the United States cherishes no predatory ambitions. We are strong; but less powerful nations know that they need not fear our strength.”

He observed that “the noblest monument to peace . . . in all the world is not a monument . . . but the boundary which unites the United States and Canada—3,000 miles of friendship.” Still, so long as war exists there is danger of being “drawn into” one. That grieves him, he said, because “I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. . . . I have seen cities destroyed. . . . I hate war.”

It’s quite a speech, a deep and persuasive exposing of thoughts on the most essential of human and governmental subjects. But what really surprised me on rereading it was that I don’t think a Republican or Democratic candidate would feel free to speak like that anymore. They’d fear being called soft. That isn’t good, or even practical. FDR after all was pretty good at waging war. It only made him more powerful, made his decisions more convincing, that he’d laid down the predicate that he’d never wanted it and in fact hated it.

Unless I’m missing something neither candidate for president appears to have an informed or deeply felt sense of the tragedy of war. Hillary Clinton was subjected, in the primaries, to sharp criticism from the left that she was too bellicose, was wrong to go all in on Iraq, wrong to support regime change in Libya, wrong to be so temperamentally activist in this area. When Moammar Gadhafi was killed in the field after the fall of his government she laughed with a reporter: “We came, we saw, he died.”

As for Donald Trump, he is usually equally aggressive in speaking of potential U.S. military actions, though it’s clear he hates war at least for himself. He did not serve and famously told Howard Stern that dodging incoming STDs was his personal Vietnam.

Our leaders are shallow on the subject of war. No, worse than shallow—they’re silent. Which is one reason they will likely not be fully trusted should they make rough decisions down the road on Syria, or Iran, or elsewhere.

War is terrible. That should be said over and over, not because it’s a box you ought to check on the way to the presidency but because you’re human and have a brain.

You should hate war. A 5-year-old knows that.

A Dramatic Lesson About Political Actors The Danish series ‘Borgen’ speaks to the growing detachment between leaders and the led.

Let’s look at last week’s theme—the growing detachment between Western leaders and the led—in a different way. I have spent much of my downtime the past year watching and re-watching the three seasons of the Danish drama “ Borgen.” It is the fictional story of the surprise election and government of the first woman elected prime minister of Denmark, and it is one of the greatest portrayals of modern politics and government I have ever seen. As drama it is riveting and full of unexpected turns, also somewhat haunting and discomfiting, which I’ll get to in a moment. But I couldn’t get over how wonderful it was—how universal in terms of politics, and of the moment (it premiered on Danish TV in 2010 and ran through 2013), and how it anticipated political events in the West (including the election of an actual female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, in 2011). Also how beautiful it is—elegantly shot, acted, written. It had a cult following in Denmark and the U.K., and ought to here.

Borgen is the popular name of Copenhagen’s Christiansborg Palace, which houses the Parliament and prime minister’s office. The new prime minister is Birgitte Nyborg, played by the luminous Sidse Babett Knudsen. Her character is beautifully created—young, kindly, smart, attractive, determined, warm. Also a tough little broad who understands the tough ways of the world. Her politics are left-liberal; she butts heads with the hard left, the hard-hard left, moderate liberals and a small right-wing populist party.

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg

Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg in the Danish drama ‘Borgen.’

The living gargoyles that populate her world are people you would recognize if you watch too much American cable news. She deals with ideologues, hacks, ambitious allies. There is her tormented spin doctor—Danish politics is on some level so innocent they consider that an honorable profession and don’t even bother with the title of press secretary. The journalists around her treat politics as a commodity. They are curt, vulgar, hungry, sometimes but not always redeemed by idealism and the people’s right to know.

Almost all the characters are on the left, the only question being what kind of leftist you are. Those who seem centrist are really just bored with politics. There are two conservatives, a malevolent newspaper editor, who torments figures of the left for the enjoyment of the right, and the populist party’s head, who is old and homely, wears the wrong clothes, and accepts being sneered at as the price he pays for where he stands.

He is occasionally given his due. In a live television debate Birgitte eloquently advances her government’s plan to take in more refugees from the Mideast, which she paints as a grand gesture in line with Denmark’s long moral tradition. He wins the moment arguing for prudence, at the end quoting feelingly from an old Danish poem. In a way he is one of the moral characters, if always an object of fun. Eventually he is overthrown by a sexy rising rightist, a dim little mover who knows the old man isn’t attractive or compelling enough to win the future.

Two plotlines capture something about the show and its larger reality.

Early in office Birgitte, head of a tenuous coalition government, chooses to back a major new feminist initiative. Her government will push a bill demanding quotas on corporate boards—half those chosen now must be women. It had been a campaign promise. Also she thinks it fair—there hasn’t been an increase in female business executives in 10 years.

Denmark’s biggest industrialist asks for a meeting. He opposes state intervention in this area, he tells the prime minister. He is not hostile to women’s rights but needs the freedom to do what is best for his company. If she doesn’t pull the bill, he will move his company and its 10,000 jobs out of the country. With the courteous imperiousness only a 70-year-old major CEO could pull off, he gives her 48 hours to decide.

She leaves, rattled. A media conglomerate that turns out to be owned by the CEO quickly begins smearing one of her ministers.

She studies up. The CEO begins meetings at headquarters with a song about Denmark. He plays cards with the royal family. He is a philanthropist. He’s been knighted.

She realizes she can use his patriotism against him.

When they meet he asks for her answers. No, she says, she’ll go forward. All right, he says, my company will leave.

“But you won’t,” she says. You’ll stay because you are not going to spend the end of your career negotiating your departure from the country you love. You will stay and we will make you modern. You’ll end a hero.

Their eyes lock in silence. It is true—he’ll never leave.

What do I get? he asks. Her government’s environmental taxes are hurting his company. Perhaps they can be delayed two years?

She smiles, nods. They shake hands.

As he walks away, her face is convulsed by a tic. You see what the high-stakes bluff cost her. You feel sympathy. It is a very great drama that leaves you moved by and rooting for the person whose stand you disagree with.

The second revealing plotline:

The previous government had taken steps to privatize health care. Birgitte is opposed to private health insurance—it would make Denmark the mess America is. Her health-care bill, in her words, “declares war on private health insurance.” The rich shouldn’t be allowed to buy their way out of the public system; it needs to be strengthened. It’s unjust that private hospitals get the best doctors.

Then her teenage daughter has a nervous breakdown. Birgitte is informed public psychiatric hospitals have a 50-week wait. She sends her daughter to a private hospital with the best doctors. She is accused of hypocrisy; a public uproar ensues. Throughout this drama she never once doubts her policy—the one she herself is buying her way out of. She knows what’s good for the people and she knows what’s good for her family, and when they’re not the same she does not question her assumptions but only barrels on.

This great drama shows all that. Which is why there’s something haunting in it, and discomfiting. You get a strong sense of why things don’t work.

“Borgen” captures this: History is human. Political leaders are driven by personal imperatives every bit as much as—often more than—public ones.

It demonstrates, knowingly or not, that to be of the left in the Western political context is to operate in a broad, deep, richly populated liberal-world that rarely if ever is pierced by contrary thought. They are in a bubble they can’t see, even as they accuse others of living in bubbles. Birgitte sees herself as practical and pragmatic, and she is—within a broader context of absolute and unquestioned ideology.

It reminded me that as a general rule political parties and political actors do not change their minds based on evidence or argument. They have to be beaten. Only then can they rationalize change to themselves and their colleagues: “We keep losing!” Defeat is the only condition in which they can see the need for change. They have to be concussed into it.

How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen Those in power see people at the bottom as aliens whose bizarre emotions they must try to manage.

This is about distance, and detachment, and a kind of historic decoupling between the top and the bottom in the West that did not, in more moderate recent times, exist.

Recently I spoke with an acquaintance of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and the conversation quickly turned, as conversations about Ms. Merkel now always do, to her decisions on immigration. Last summer when Europe was engulfed with increasing waves of migrants and refugees from Muslim countries, Ms. Merkel, moving unilaterally, announced that Germany would take in an astounding 800,000. Naturally this was taken as an invitation, and more than a million came. The result has been widespread public furor over crime, cultural dissimilation and fears of terrorism. From such a sturdy, grounded character as Ms. Merkel the decision was puzzling—uncharacteristically romantic about people, how they live their lives, and history itself, which is more charnel house than settlement house.

Ms. Merkel’s acquaintance sighed and agreed. It’s one thing to be overwhelmed by an unexpected force, quite another to invite your invaders in! But, the acquaintance said, he believed the chancellor was operating in pursuit of ideals. As the daughter of a Lutheran minister, someone who grew up in East Germany, Ms. Merkel would have natural sympathy for those who feel marginalized and displaced. Moreover she is attempting to provide a kind of counter-statement, in the 21st century, to Germany’s great sin of the 20th. The historical stain of Nazism, the murder and abuse of the minority, will be followed by the moral triumph of open arms toward the dispossessed. That’s what’s driving it, said the acquaintance.

It was as good an explanation as I’d heard. But there was a fundamental problem with the decision that you can see rippling now throughout the West. Ms. Merkel had put the entire burden of a huge cultural change not on herself and those like her but on regular people who live closer to the edge, who do not have the resources to meet the burden, who have no particular protection or money or connections. Ms. Merkel, her cabinet and government, the media and cultural apparatus that lauded her decision were not in the least affected by it and likely never would be.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Nothing in their lives will get worse. The challenge of integrating different cultures, negotiating daily tensions, dealing with crime and extremism and fearfulness on the street—that was put on those with comparatively little, whom I’ve called the unprotected. They were left to struggle, not gradually and over the years but suddenly and in an air of ongoing crisis that shows no signs of ending—because nobody cares about them enough to stop it.

The powerful show no particular sign of worrying about any of this. When the working and middle class pushed back in shocked indignation, the people on top called them “xenophobic,” “narrow-minded,” “racist.” The detached, who made the decisions and bore none of the costs, got to be called “humanist,” “compassionate,” and “hero of human rights.”

And so the great separating incident at Cologne last New Year’s, and the hundreds of sexual assaults by mostly young migrant men who were brought up in societies where women are veiled—who think they should be veiled—and who chose to see women in short skirts and high heels as asking for it.

Cologne of course was followed by other crimes.

The journalist Chris Caldwell reports in the Weekly Standard on Ms. Merkel’s statement a few weeks ago, in which she told Germans that history was asking them to “master the flip side, the shadow side, of all the positive effects of globalization.”

Caldwell: “This was the chancellor’s . . . way of acknowledging that various newcomers to the national household had begun to attack and kill her voters at an alarming rate.” Soon after her remarks, more horrific crimes followed, including in Munich (nine killed in a McDonald’s) Reutlingen (a knife attack) and Ansbach (a suicide bomber).

*   *   *

The larger point is that this is something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it. It is a theme I see working its way throughout the West’s power centers. At its heart it is not only a detachment from, but a lack of interest in, the lives of your countrymen, of those who are not at the table, and who understand that they’ve been abandoned by their leaders’ selfishness and mad virtue-signalling.

On Wall Street, where they used to make statesmen, they now barely make citizens. CEOs are consumed with short-term thinking, stock prices, quarterly profits. They don’t really believe that they have to be involved with “America” now; they see their job as thinking globally and meeting shareholder expectations.

In Silicon Valley the idea of “the national interest” is not much discussed. They adhere to higher, more abstract, more global values. They’re not about America, they’re about . . . well, I suppose they’d say the future.

In Hollywood the wealthy protect their own children from cultural decay, from the sick images they create for all the screens, but they don’t mind if poor, unparented children from broken-up families get those messages and, in the way of things, act on them down the road.

From what I’ve seen of those in power throughout business and politics now, the people of your country are not your countrymen, they’re aliens whose bizarre emotions you must attempt occasionally to anticipate and manage.

In Manhattan, my little island off the continent, I see the children of the global business elite marry each other and settle in London or New York or Mumbai. They send their children to the same schools and are alert to all class markers. And those elites, of Mumbai and Manhattan, do not often identify with, or see a connection to or an obligation toward, the rough, struggling people who live at the bottom in their countries. In fact, they fear them, and often devise ways, when home, of not having their wealth and worldly success fully noticed.

Affluence detaches, power adds distance to experience. I don’t have it fully right in my mind but something big is happening here with this division between the leaders and the led. It is very much a feature of our age. But it is odd that our elites have abandoned or are abandoning the idea that they belong to a country, that they have ties that bring responsibilities, that they should feel loyalty to their people or, at the very least, a grounded respect.

I close with a story that I haven’t seen in the mainstream press. This week the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported that recent Syrian refugees being resettled in Virginia, were sent to the state’s poorest communities. Data from the State Department showed that almost all Virginia’s refugees since October “have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.” Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation’s capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington—among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media—have received only nine refugees.

Some of the detachment isn’t unconscious. Some of it is sheer and clever self-protection. At least on some level they can take care of their own.

The Week They Decided Donald Trump Was Crazy He inflicts one wound after another on his campaign.

I think this week marked a certain coming to terms with where the election is going. Politics is about trends and tendencies. The trends for Donald Trump are not good, and he tends not to change.

All the damage done to him this week was self-inflicted. The arrows he’s taken are arrows he shot. We have in seven days witnessed his undignified and ungrateful reaction to a Gold Star family; the odd moment with the crying baby; the one-on-one interviews, which are starting to look like something he does in the grip of a compulsion, in which Mr. Trump expresses himself thoughtlessly, carelessly, on such issues as Russia, Ukraine and sexual harassment; the relitigating of his vulgar Megyn Kelly comments from a year ago; and, as his fortunes fell, his statement that he “would not be surprised” if the November election were “rigged.” Subject to an unprecedented assault by a sitting president who called him intellectually and characterologically unfit for the presidency, Mr Trump fired back—at Paul Ryan and John McCain.

Shooting himself in the footThe mad scatterbrained-ness of it was captured in a Washington Post interview with Philip Rucker in which five times by my count—again, the compulsion—Mr. Trump departed the meat of the interview to turn his head and stare at the television. On seeing himself on the screen: “Lot of energy. We got a lot of energy.” Minutes later: “Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long. That’s why their ratings are through the roof.” He’s all about screens, like a toddler hooked on iPad.

Mr. Trump spent all his time doing these things instead of doing his job: making the case for his policies, expanding on his stands, and taking the battle to Hillary Clinton.

By the middle of the week the Republican National Committee was reported to be frustrated, party leaders alarmed, donors enraged. There was talk of an “intervention.”

Here is a truth of life. When you act as if you’re insane, people are liable to think you’re insane. That’s what happened this week. People started to become convinced he was nuts, a total flake.

It was there in the polls. Fox News shows Mrs. Clinton with a 10-point lead, with Mr. Trump at 78% of the Republican vote, compared with Mitt Romney’s 93% in 2012. Mr. Romney won the white vote by 20 points; Mr. Trump is ahead by 10. “High-end Republicans are walking away,” says a GOP oppo guy. “Who is choking now?” The battleground states, too, have turned bad.

This is what became obvious, probably fatally so: Mr. Trump is not going to get serious about running for president. He does not have a second act, there are no hidden depths, there will be no “pivot.” It is not that he is willful or stubborn, though he may be, it’s that he doesn’t have the skill set needed now—discretion, carefulness, generosity, judgment. There’s a clueless quality about him. It’s not that he doesn’t get advice; it’s that he can’t hear advice, can’t process it or turn it into action.

“He’ll reach out, he’ll start to listen. He’ll change, soften.” No, he won’t. Nor will he start to understand that his blunders are a form of shown disrespect for his own supporters. They put themselves on the line for him, many at some cost. What he’s giving them in return is a strange, bush-league, pull-it-out-of-your-ear, always-indulge-your-emotions campaign. They deserve better.

And while Mr. Trump was doing this, Mrs. Clinton was again lying about her emails, reminding us there’s crazy there, too. She insisted to Chris Wallace that FBI director James Comey endorsed her sincerity and veracity. No he didn’t, and everyone knows he didn’t. She’d have spent the past week defending her claims if it weren’t for Mr. Trump’s tireless attempts to kill Mr. Trump.

His supporters hope it will all turn around in the debates: He’ll wipe the floor with her; for the first time she’ll be toe-to-toe with someone who speaks truth to power. But why do they assume this? Are they watching Mrs. Clinton? She doesn’t look very afraid of him. “No, Donald, you don’t,” she purred in her acceptance speech. In debate she’ll calmly try to swat him away, cock her head, look at the moderator, smile. She’ll be watching old videos of Reagan-Carter in 1980: “There you go again.”

She is aware no one believes she’s honest and trustworthy. If there’s one thing Mrs. Clinton knows it’s how to read a poll. She has accepted that people understand her. Her debate approach will be this: In spite of what will no doubt be some uncomfortable moments, she will, in comparison with him, seem sturdy and grounded—normal. That, this week, could be her bumper sticker: “Hillary: Way Less Abnormal.”

It must be said that all this is so strange on so many levels.

Donald Trump is said to be in love with the idea of success, dividing the world between winners and losers. But he just won big and couldn’t take yes for an answer.

He got it all, was the unique outsider who shocked the entire political class with his rise. He should be the happiest man in the world, not besieged and full of complaint. All he had to do was calm down, build bridges, reach out, reassure, be gracious. In fairness, he could not unite the party. That isn’t possible now—it is a divided party, which is why it had 17 candidates. Mr. Trump won with just less than half the vote, an achievement in a field that big, but also while representing policies that the formal leadership of the party in Washington finds anathema. He was the candidate who would control illegal immigration, who wouldn’t cut entitlements, who opposes an interventionist foreign policy, who thinks our major trade deals have not benefited Americans on the ground. And he won, big time.

From what I’ve seen there has been zero reflection on the part of Republican leaders on how much the base’s views differ from theirs and what to do about it. The GOP is not at all refiguring its stands. The only signs of life I see are among young staffers on Capitol Hill, who understand their bosses’ stands have been rebuked and are quietly debating among themselves what policy paths will win the future.

Beyond that, anti-Trump Republicans treat his voters like immoral enablers of a malignant boob. Should Mr. Trump lose decisively in November they’ll lord it over everyone, say “I told you so,” and accept what they imagine will be forelock-tugging apologies. Then they will get to work burying not only Mr. Trump but his issues.

That’s where the future of the GOP will be fought, and found: on whether Trumpism can be defeated along with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump would care about that if he cared about that.

I end with a new word, at least new to me. A friend called it to my attention. It speaks of the moment we’re in. It is “kakistocracy,” from the Greek. It means government by the worst persons, by the least qualified or most unprincipled. We’re on our way there, aren’t we? We’re going to have to make our way through it together.

A Disunited Party’s Successful Convention The Democrats preview the strategy they hope will dismantle Donald Trump.

The showbiz headline from the Democrats’ convention in Philadelphia is that they did fine. They have their nominees; they had good speeches and glamorous celebrities; the cameras panning the audience often caught glistening faces, not angry ones. It did not look unified but it did look alive. So the impression was of relative success.

The historical headline is something different, and should not be lost in the stagecraft. It was captured in two events. The first was the moment, early Monday afternoon, when Bernie Sanders lost control of his movement. His rally audience jeered the idea of unity, refused to cheer Hillary Clinton, failed to boo Donald Trump lustily. A flicker of disoriented surprise crossed Mr. Sanders’s face. He was no longer riding the tiger, it was riding him.

The second was the moment when Leon Panetta—former chief of staff to a Democratic president, former defense secretary and CIA director, longtime and reliable partisan—was jeered at the convention Wednesday. “No more war!” they chanted when he spoke of terrorism. He looked mildly concussed. Get used to that expression, we’re going to be seeing more of it.

Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia

Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia

The Democratic Party is turning left. It’s not about “Bernie” now, and his followers are not going away. It is about the political impulses of the party’s young, which is to say its future. They are part of a tide of the passionate, the ideological and the underinformed. They have no idea what socialism is or what it has done in the past to great nations, and they appear to want it. I guess we’ll have to go through that argument again. They have already pushed Mrs. Clinton left and, should she become president, will push her further, against her wishes. But she has a new base to keep close. This shift is a real historical development.

President Obama has been an unusually strong helper and supporter of Mrs. Clinton, and this is assumed to be linked to interest in his legacy. Successful presidents tend to be followed by presidents from their own party. But it is more than legacy, or loyalty. It is a desire to avoid humiliation. If Mr. Trump wins, voters will be saying more than that Mr. Obama’s leadership didn’t quite work. They’ll be saying he was such a failure that they lurched desperately toward someone who’d blow the whole system up. Mr. Trump’s election would be a stinging rebuke, one for the history books. Mr. Obama will give everything he has to keep that from happening.

To the speeches.

The most electric line did not come from a politician. It came Thursday from a man named Khizr Khan, an American Muslim whose son, a U.S. Army captain, died in combat after 9/11. Mr. Khan said to Mr. Trump, who did not serve in the military: “You have sacrificed nothing.” The crowd roared to its feet at those four damning words.

Bluntest in his case against Mr. Trump was Mike Bloomberg: “I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.” He questioned Mr. Trump’s wealth: “Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.” An American president must understand business, Mr. Bloomberg said, but Mr. Trump doesn’t—thus his history of bankruptcies, lawsuits, bitter shareholders and aggrieved contractors. “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us.”

Joe Biden was good and returned the word “malarkey” to the lexicon, for which God bless him. Tim Kaine was fine. I observed in 2008 that his charm is that he seems not like the man in first class but the man in coach who may be the air marshal. He is charming, but we will see the next few months if there’s something servile there.

Bill Clinton looked physically well. His task, as always, was to humanize his wife. It seemed to me he was trying to tell millennials some history they might not know—that she’d been a student too once, and a young wife and mother. There was too much information. I was startled by his reference to “when her water broke.” Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post merrily observed this was the first time a convention speaker has ever said that about a presidential nominee, “except for one very confused man who panicked in the middle of introducing Herbert Hoover.”

As for Mrs. Clinton, I didn’t agree with the idea it had to be the speech of her life. It would be an important speech and would do her good if she got it right. Otherwise it was a big speech in a quarter-century of big speeches. It’s not as if people don’t know what they think of her.

She did herself no harm. She didn’t help herself as much as she might have. The speech was workmanlike. It sounded like things she’d said before. She wore a radiant white suit and looked wonderful, relaxed and happy.

The speech was ploddingly progressive and at moments relatable.

She has a tropism toward clichés. Interestingly, unlike many politicians she knows they are clichés. She must just like them. “We must all work together so we can all rise together.” “We will rise to the challenge just as we always have.” “As secretary of state I went to 112 countries.” “Let’s go out and make it happen together!”

She spoke of compromise and common purpose. “Our Founders embraced the truth . . . that we are stronger together.”

She did not do what I thought she’d do—something new.

She came alive, and was most fully herself, when on attack. Of Mr. Trump’s convention speech: “He spoke for 70-odd minutes, and I do mean odd.” That’s the witty Hillary her friends describe. Cuttingly, on the weakest moment in his speech: “Don’t believe anyone who says, ‘I alone can fix it.’ ” He says he knows more about ISIS than the generals? “No Donald, you don’t.” “There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.” He is a merchant of menace. “You have to stand up to bullies.”

Shrewdly: “It’s true, I sweat the details of policy.” But “it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid.”

“Some people don’t know what to make of me,” she said. That isn’t precisely true—many people, perhaps most, feel they do. One lovely line: “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

She finished stronger than she started.

It used to be both parties had their conventions and then rested a while, beginning the campaign proper on Labor Day weekend. Not this year. The battle continues tomorrow and will not let up until Nov. 9.

The big thing we found out in the convention is exactly how Democrats will attempt to dismantle Mr. Trump piece by piece. He’s not just reckless, he’s ridiculous—a fraud in business, a screwball, unserious and uninformed about policy. They’ll try to drive him crazy, too, quite deliberately. They’ll do this not by quoting him accurately and denouncing his views, but by misquoting him, putting a twist on what he said, and then denouncing him. They’ll try to get him to whine, whinge, blow his top. They’re doing it already, to their profit. They’ll play the picador tormenting the bull, goading him, weakened, into an unfortunate charge.

Trump and the Unknowable Moment His speech was neither eloquent nor lofty, but it was powerful.

Cleveland

Two headlines on the week, and some speeches.

Donald Trump effectively won the Republican primary in the first week of May, meaning the GOP has had 2½ months to do what it has always done, even under duress, such as in 1964 and 1976: come together. They have not. From day one of the convention it was clear the GOP is a bitterly divided party and not even bothering to hide it.

It failed to unite not because it had poor leadership or the nominee didn’t know how to do it, though both are true. More killingly it failed to unite because it didn’t want to. Everyone’s in his corner. Donald Trump failed to change his style in a way that would have given cover to those who would have, with considerable relief, joined him. On the other hand, anti-Trump forces continued to look down on Mr. Trump’s supporters and grant them nothing in terms of motivation, sincerity, insight.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Most important, though no one in Cleveland was keen to talk about it, there is the split between the base and the top on such huge and fundamental issues as immigration, trade and entitlements. The base came to this convention, which was middle-class and dressed down. The wealthy and connected largely stayed away. You didn’t see them swanning from reception to party to caucus. It spoke volumes. Now and then you remember that snobbery is an actual force in life.

If each side hates the other and believes in different things, how do they come together again?

Connected to that, the second headline, which has to do with the unknowability of the moment we’re in. The shrewdest old political pro, the brightest young delegate, the owlish political journalist—they didn’t know exactly what they were witnessing. Was it the formal start of an epic political disaster? The birth of a new GOP more identified with the struggles of its base? Is 2016 a particular and contained event, or does it mark the beginning of some long-term realignment? As for Mr. Trump, is he a lightning storm that lit things up, caused some damage, will play itself out and pass? Or is he an earthquake that changed the actual shape of things, the literal lay of the land?

Nobody involved here, nobody watching, knew. I’ve never quite seen such intellectual modesty among people who are usually quick in their eagerness to explain it all to you.

There were a number of good speeches. Donald Trump Jr. was strong and persuasive on Tuesday night. The next morning, at a Wall Street Journal event, he made a better case for his father than his father has. He talked about the forgotten middle American and referred to himself, humorously, as “a Fifth Avenue redneck.” When pressed on how a man as divisive as his father could unify the nation, he answered that one way to unify the country is to see that its people have jobs: “When people are doing well it’s amazing how much unity you’ll get from that.” I had the distinct impression I was listening to a future political candidate.

Mike Pence’s speech was modest, simple and strong. He is going to be a powerful and effective figure in the coming campaign. A longtime staffer told me he was surprised how relaxed the governor was as he prepared. He’d seen him over the years be nervous about smaller, less important speeches. Mr. Pence, the staffer said, told him the reason was that he was completely at peace with his decision to run with Mr. Trump.

Ted Cruz did himself damage. By the end of his tireless campaign for the nomination he was semi-endearing. Wednesday night he resurrected Snaky Ted. He spoke highly of freedom and went after President Obama. Sometimes he half-laughed after speaking a line, as if to say You know this is showbiz, right? It showed an unbecoming detachment. He told the audience not to stay home in November but vote for the right person, then forgot to say who that person might be.

If you can’t endorse, good for you and stay home. That isn’t politics, it’s basic human comportment. If someone you’re certain is awful invites you to a party, you politely decline. You don’t go, walk into the room, and punch your host in the head. Mr. Cruz miscalculated, thinking if he snubbed Trump half the delegates would cheer. Instead almost all booed. He thought the media would laud his courage and integrity. They saw him as wounded and treated him as prey.

When his campaign ended in June, I attended a small dinner in his honor. Mr. Cruz was charming, modest and funny. When we said goodnight I told him I felt, in retrospect, that I hadn’t always been just to him and was glad I’d have a chance to be more generous in the future. Apparently I will need still more time. What a jerk.

Donald Trump’s speech was important. He is a vivid figure and for a year has elicited strong reactions. By now he’s exhausting. We have Trump Fatigue. Also, who doesn’t know how he feels about him? His acceptance speech was an opportunity to break through in a new way and flesh out his purpose. I think he succeeded, though with a certain grimness. He’d probably reply that the times are grim.

We have to assess the true facts of our nation, he said: “We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.” He spoke of “the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news,” including the costs of illegal immigration and the victims of economic decline.

He argued that the past eight years of U.S. foreign policy have been disastrous to peace and stability. “But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy.”

Does he want a ban on Muslims? No. “We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.” This stand has always driven his enemies crazy, and Mr. Trump usually spoke of it sloppily, either deliberately or not. But to most Americans it will sound like simple common sense.

He was frankly populist: “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves. . . . My greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens.” He stands, he asserted, for “the forgotten”—not as their tribune or their leader, but “their voice.”

Cleverly: “My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads, ‘I’m with her.’ I choose to recite a different pledge: ‘I’m with you, the American people.’ ”

It was not an eloquent speech, not lofty, very plain and blunt. It covered a lot of territory and went too long. It had no leavening humor. It is strange to see a New Yorker so uninterested in wit. It was at points too hyped and declarative, and it was sometimes grandiose.

But it was powerful. After reading a copy of the speech leaked in advance, an anti-Trump conservative intellectual emailed me. “He’s going to win,” he said. The moment at least was not unknowable to him.

Three Good Men Talk About Race Powerful perspectives from a senator, a surgeon and a police chief.

The best question from a journalist for the man and woman running for president is this: In the area of race relations, why can’t we get it right? All your life, Mr. Trump, all your life, Mrs. Clinton, we have been trying to solve what divides America. Why can’t we?

Give them time to breathe, space to answer. Don’t lean in with that reporter-face that signals, “You’ve got 18 seconds, and near the end I’ll interrupt to show how probing and alert I am.”

Don’t do that. Give them time. In that time they will be forced to think aloud. If they change the subject, that will say worlds. If they don’t have thoughts to share that will tell us a lot too.

Beyond that, even though everyone on media asks for a conversation about race, most of them don’t really mean it. They don’t want a conversation but a platform. They want to talk and for you to listen. And they want what’s said to be circumscribed—they want narrow barriers put on acceptable limits of thought and experience.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown

Dallas Police Chief David Brown

So people turn away and everyone simmers.

But three good men this week were having a conversation, not with each other but with the country. And they said three big things:

You don’t know what it is to be a black man.

You don’t know what you’re asking of the police.

And, I’m trying to process everything in my heart.

Tim Scott, 50, the first African-American U.S. senator from South Carolina, spoke on the floor of the Senate about what it is to be him, and black.

He was not looking to grind a political ax. He wanted to explain that what you hear about being treated differently because you’re a black man is true. He has felt the “humiliation that comes with feeling like you’re being targeted for nothing more than being just yourself.” During one of his six years on Capitol Hill he was stopped by law-enforcement officers seven times. “Was I speeding sometimes? Sure. But the vast majority of the time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood. . . . I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell—no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life.”

Last year a policeman stopped him on his way into a congressional office building, wearing his Senate pin on the lapel of his suit. “The officer looked at me with a little attitude and said, ‘The pin I know, you I don’t. Show me your ID.’ ” Was the assumption he was “impersonating a member of Congress, or what?”

That night he got a call from the officer’s supervisor, apologizing. Sen. Scott said it was the third such call he’d received since he entered the Senate in 2013.

He asked his fellow senators to “recognize that just because you do not feel the pain . . . does not mean it does not exist.” Ignoring the struggles of others “does not make them disappear. It simply leaves you blind and the American family very vulnerable.”

Thursday by phone I asked Mr. Scott what reaction he’d received. Colleagues were “very supportive.” “ Orrin Hatch came in and hugged me,” he laughed. Public reaction was “very positive,” though “a minor percentage” disapproved. “Some people asked me to leave the party. Some people feel, they’re white and have been discriminated against as well. My point is, exactly! All discrimination is bad.” Some blacks, he said, are offended that he is Republican.

“I wanted to uncover my own pain and become vulnerable in hopes that others, who may not have my microphone,” will take heart. “I wanted to validate people and their concerns.”

Much progress has been made, he emphasized: “I don’t want us to be mired in the idea we’re losing ground. We’ve made up so much ground in the past 50 years.” But “there are dark corners that need a little light.”

“The good Lord made me black, and he made me black on purpose,” Mr. Scott said. The country “is at a crossroads. . . . We have a chance to listen and not just talk.”

Another good man was at Parkland Memorial Hospital last week when victims of the Dallas shooter came in. Brian Williams, 47, was one of the trauma surgeons.

“This experience has been very personal for me and a turning point in my life,” Dr. Williams, who is black, told the press. They’re used to multiple gunshot victims at Parkland, “but the preceding days of more black men dying at the hands of police officers affected me. I think the reasons are obvious. I fit that demographic.” He too has been stopped by police over the years, once thrown “spread eagle” on the hood of a cruiser.

“But I abhor what has been done to these officers,” Dr. Williams said. He worked frantically to save them. Then he grieved.

At the end of that night, police officers lined up in the ambulance bay as the bodies of their colleagues were taken away. It was a line of honor. “I didn’t know if I belonged with them,” Dr. Williams said. He was a civilian, didn’t face their challenges. “But I was grieving with them. . . . And I wanted to show my respects.”

So he walked forward and joined the line.

“The killing,” he said, “has to stop.”

And then of course, the great man whose presence in Dallas has seemed providential: Police Chief David Brown, 55. In a press conference Monday he took all comers, admitted he was “running on fumes” and didn’t know how he’d get through this week but would, “a testament to God’s grace and his sweet, tender mercies.”
More Declarations

Answering a question, he told a great and immediate truth: “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country.” They’re paying the price for every societal failure. “Not enough mental health funding? ‘Let the cop handle it.’ Not enough drug addiction funding? ‘Let’s give it to the cops.’ Here in Dallas we’ve got a loose dog problem. ‘Let’s have the cops chase loose dogs.’ Schools fail, ‘Give it to the cops.’ Seventy percent of the African-American community is being raised by single women—‘Let’s give it to the cops to solve that is well.’ ” Society, Chief Brown said, has to step up.

He invited protesters to become part of the solution. “We’re hiring,” he said. “Get off that protest line and put an application in. We’ll put you in your neighborhood and we’ll help you resolve some of the problems you’re protesting about.”

David Brown has become an American folk hero. Who wasn’t grateful he was there?

We have been going through a hard time in America. Once, 20 years ago, I wrote something I didn’t fully understand, but it came with the force of intuition and I knew it was true: “Young black men will save our country.”

I thought of it all this week.

These great men, 20 years ago, were young. I must have passed them on the street. All three this week helped save our country.

Comedy Wears Better Than Cynicism The contrast in theatrics is starting to make Trump look sympathetic.

Let’s start shallow and try to end deeper.

The shallow thought is about campaign theatrics, or, better, the mood with which candidates present themselves to the public.

Part of how Donald Trump connects with his audience, those in the hall and those watching at home, is that he tells them how he experiences things. It comes across as undefended, forthcoming—fresh. Hillary Clinton at this point would never say how she’s experiencing things. She doesn’t wing it because when she has in the past—from “I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette” and “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies” right up to “We came out of the White House not only dead broke but in debt”—she always came to regret impromptu remarks. A certain unconscious snobbery always seeped out, and repelled when she meant to attract.

Donald TrumpNo one has ever taken Mr. Trump for a snob, but that isn’t my point. Mrs. Clinton is heavily defended, mentally edits and re-edits every spontaneous comment, and has a tropism toward the unimaginative. Boring is a safe place to be in politics so I can’t imagine she sees it as anything but a trade-off. Better not to give them a memorable quote than to give them “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

Wednesday night in his speech in Cincinnati Mr. Trump was typically free-associative and talked too long, more than an hour. He doesn’t know when to stop because he doesn’t know when he’s made his point, or sometimes what his point was. But he unselfconsciously shares a lot of his internal dialogue, and how he’s experiencing things. “Baron draws stars all over the place.” “I hate mosquitoes.” “Have I been a good messenger?” “I said three times, bad, bad, bad,” of Saddam Hussein. The golf swing they showed on TV “actually looked good.” “This speech last night was good.” He mimicked newscasters, saying “They are liars, these are bad people,” and Mrs. Clinton, aping her speech patterns.

There is something scatty in this but also something interesting, possibly potent. There is no invisible scrim between him and the audience. He also has fun and is a comic. I realized he thinks he has to entertain; it’s part of his job to be informal, surprising, personal—to make jokes, even to step apart from himself and almost admit: Look, I don’t always get it right in interviews but I’m trying over here! Wednesday night as he spoke I thought of Jerry Lewis—“Hey, lady!”—and what was said of him, that a television camera was his full moon.

Anyway, this dynamic—that he personally connects and entertains, and she doesn’t—will continue, because he can’t stop it and she can’t do it.

A note on mainstream media antipathy to Trump. I suspect at the moment it’s starting to help him. More than half the country is willing to believe the media are essentially dishonest and mobby, that they function either consciously or not as Democratic operatives, that they don’t have to like Mrs. Clinton (and they don’t) to function in this way, and that they feel nothing but disrespect for Mr. Trump, his followers and everything they represent. But a lot of TV journalists are particularly upfront and out there now about their antipathy, in part because they’re honestly alarmed—this guy could really become president—and in part because it is not respectable not to hate him. But they are starting to make him look sympathetic.

His media foes should watch out for a boomerang effect.

On Mrs. Clinton and FBI Director James Comey’s decision to recommend against prosecution:

Mr. Comey looked to me both embarrassed and double-minded. He appeared to want to make clear that Mrs. Clinton was repeatedly untruthful in her public statements on her server and emails. He is a sophisticated man who surely knew people would take video clips of his announced findings and juxtapose them with video clips of her previous assertions. He was clear in his words and made that job easy, which he didn’t have to do. He could have spoken the horrible bureaucratic nonlanguage people in government revert to when they don’t want to be understood.

When you look at the tapes of Mrs. Clinton’s assertions, you see exactly what her face looks like and her voice sounds like when she is lying. That will do her no good!

But the story is now over. In politics when you don’t die, you are alive. Prosecution would likely have killed her presidential hopes. With no prosecution she moves forward as a member of the Undead.

The scandal will make Mrs. Clinton look worse to people who had doubts about her essential character, and to those who didn’t know they should have reservations. It made her look better to no one. At a certain point a central idea—that she decided to subvert government record-keeping requirements and freedom-of-information requests, and damn the repercussions—broke through. That point was the famous private-plane-on-the-Phoenix-tarmac meeting of Bill Clinton and the attorney general who would ultimately decide her case. People thought: Wow, that smells. It stinks. It was like a plot point in “House of Cards.” A saving grace of the Clintons is that they’re often too clever by half.

I add only that Mr. Comey’s decision, after the famous 3½-hour holiday-weekend interview with Mrs. Clinton, makes you wonder if they would have recommended prosecution only if she had confessed to wrongdoing. Maybe they were expecting a Perry Mason moment where she breaks down under questioning. “Of course I knew having a private server was wrong! Of course I knew it meant Putin was reading my emails! I’ll tell you something else, I was the man in the hat on the Grassy Knoll. I killed Mary Meyer on the C&O Canal and I’m proud of it!”

But that wouldn’t happen in real life, would it?

It is legitimately asked whether this is a government of laws or a government of men—of failed, flawed human beings. Are the rich and powerful always assumed now to have the decisive finger on the scales of justice?

Anything that increases public cynicism in America is, at this point, a very particular and damaging sin. It spreads an air of social defeatism. It saps the civic will. It makes earnest and trusting people feel like dopes and dupes. It makes trusting parents look clueless to their children.

Cynicism is also a virus. Once everyone knows nothing is on the square, as they used to say, they too become more corrupt just to maintain their position.

Cynicism doesn’t just make everything worse; it creates a new kind of bad. It kills, for instance, the idea of merit. You don’t rise through talent and effort; you rise through lies, connections, silence, the rules of the gang. That gives the young an unearned bitterness. That is a terrible thing for adults to do, to deprive the young of the idealism that helps them rise cleanly and with point.