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On July 1, 1863, Union and Confederate armies met at the small town of Gettysburg and began the three-day battle that became the largest fought in this hemisphere and one of the most important fought anywhere. It was where brother fought brother, generals who were friends faced each other as enemies, 60,000 were killed, wounded, or missing, and the hope of mankind was saved. On Nov. 19, Abraham Lincoln came to the site to consecrate it as the hallowed ground it now was, and delivered a 200-word, two-minute speech that became as famous and hallowed as the battle itself.

On Oct. 20, 2016, Donald Trump, the current nominee of the party of Lincoln, came to Gettysburg for a speech about policy, and spent 13 minutes riffing on his plans to sue the 10 (so far) women who accused him of assault and/or harassment after a tape surfaced of him ten years ago boasting that his celebrity status allowed him to enter women’s dressings rooms and stare at them while they were changing, or grope them, as he was a star. “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign”‘ he griped, not far from sites at which thousands expired. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued when the election is over.” He vowed to sue Democrats, whom he said put them forward. “We’ll find out about their involvement … through litigation, and I look so forward to doing that.”

No doubt he does. After this, with the audience stunned, Trump reeled off a number of policy points that were completely drowned out by his prior eruptions, leading the blog Powerline to accuse the Associated Press of liberal bias against him, because it had “buried the lede.” In fact, the AP described exactly what happened: “Steering his campaign toward controversy yet again, Donald Trump vowed Saturday to sue every woman who has accused him … Trump’s bold threat of legal action eclipsed his planned focus on serious minded policy … Though his campaign had billed the speech as a chance for Trump to lay out a to-do for his first 100 days as president, he seemed unable to restrain himself from re-litigating grievances with Hillary Clinton, the media, and especially the women who have come forward in recent days.”

Policies matter, but they are enforced by people whose characters are still more important, and this was not a case of a “scandal” eclipsing a discussion of policy, but of an outburst revealing a man. His policies move back and forth but his core remains truculent. He reads policy points off the page in a flat voice as if it were the first time he saw them, but he comes alive truly only when settling scores. And so he has done this over and over: With the Khans the morning after his convention was over, with Miss Universe the day after the first debate was over, with the Al Smith affair, where he was booed by priests during a charity dinner, after the third.

His Gettysburg Address is probably what we could expect from a Trump administration: one part vengeance; two parts forced pedantry, now and then, when his handlers insist. Schlepping him to Gettysburg was a terrible error, as it emphasized the chasm between the greatest of presidents and the worst nominee ever put forth by a national party. “Four score and seven blunders ago, Trump could have won this,” Matthew Dowd said on Sunday. That chance is gone.

Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”

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