By Don C. Reed

As this is written, the world is only hours away from the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Predicted audience estimates run as high as a Super Bowl-sized 100 million viewers.

By the time you read this, the outcome will be clear. The debate will confirm the opinions of those who already have their minds made up; as well as hopefully offering new information for the undecided.

Of one thing we can be sure: it will not be an easy match.

Trump is formidable. Big and loud and bulging with stage presence, he struts and postures like a TV wrestler. He has the colossal vanity of someone whose every wish has been catered to since the day he was born into millions.

He is an actor. When he goes against Hillary, he will come at her with everything he’s got: smiling and thoughtful if that suits his purpose, shouting and pounding the podium if he wants to change the subject.

He may use the implied threat of his size, perhaps leaning forward suddenly in the handshake, hoping to make Hillary flinch.

But that is all right; Hillary has been dealing with aggressive Republicans all her life, beginning with her father, Hugh Rodham. She can stand against the wind.

Notice how when Hillary talks, it is to suggest a solution to a problem. When needed she will fight back, with calm intelligence, controlled passion and pure grit. Given the choice, she would prefer to deal with issues, to hold plans up to the light, comparing them for America.

But that would be difficult with Donald Trump, who often does not appear to have a plan at all. He may just promise to develop something unspecifiedly wonderful, on the basis that he can do it because he says so.

When he does have a proposal, he seems willing to abandon it at a moment’s notice, or vary it according to the audience. Much of “Trump-speak” is pure self-adulation, at which he is expert. He also loves to paint a picture of gloom and doom, “which only I can fix”.

Hillary does not talk or act like that; as her campaign puts it, we are “stronger together”.

My instincts are that this unifying approach will win both debate, and Presidency.

Hillary is superbly prepared for the only kind of fighting that really matters, unmeasured by showmanship or debate points.

Her strength is the central requirement of the Presidency: to take on giant problems and systematically defeat them.

How do she and Donald differ?

Compare the two candidates on how they will fight two enormous and expensive medical problems: Alzheimer’s disease, and autism, each afflicting millions of people, each costing billions of dollars a year.

We cannot tell what Trump will do. As far as I can see, he has no position. The only clue is his history: his actions toward people who have disabilities.

We know he will mock a person with a disability, because we have seen him do it; remember that reporter with a disease, who dared to ask a difficult question?

We can also read the public record on how Trump fought for years to avoid legal obligations to accommodate citizens with a disability in his hotels.

Astonishingly, Trump once withdrew medical benefits from an infant, who was ill with cerebral palsy.

Background: during the reading of his father’s will, which Trump may have influenced, a nephew was left with nothing. Objecting to being cut off, and feeling Donald was to blame, the nephew sued him—and Trump got “angry”.

What came next? Here is the exact quote from the New York Times:

“…Trump retaliated by withdrawing the medical benefits critical to his nephew’s infant child.

“I was angry because they sued,” he explained…”

The suit was later “settled very amicably” according to Trump… and presumably the child’s benefits were restored. We cannot know for sure because the results were sealed.

What kind of man withholds medical care from a baby?

Read the story.

Perhaps because he has always lived in the cushioned world of wealth, Trump appears unconcerned about the suffering of others.

Hillary? Instead of mocking the disabled, she includes them: bringing them onstage with her. Instead of ignoring the 1 in 5 Americans with a disability, she takes on their challenges.

When she developed her programs to address Alzheimer’s and autism, she did not merely listen to the political experts. She went around the country on a “listening tour”, and asked the affected people themselves to share concerns.

Her plans reflect this deeper knowledge, enhanced by citizen involvement: to provide practical care for those who suffer, relief for their families, and funding for research to alleviate the condition.

Example: one huge problem for families affected by autism is that government programs generally end when the person reaches adulthood. The condition does not go away, but the funding does. Hillary’s program deals with that in a public/private partnership, working with the family on an individual basis, to help the affected individual achieve a job he or she can hold, with the assistance they may require.

Example: as any care-provider for an Alzheimer’s patient can tell you, one common danger is that he/she may simply walk away from home and become lost. Clinton intends to work with Congress to reactivate a previously-existing plan— the “Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program”– to share information and resources quickly when a patient wanders off, to bring him or her home safe.


The debate will show the sparks and fire of two strong leaders, one somewhat louder than the other.

But what we need most now is a quiet strength: someone who can work with others to achieve our common goals.

Is this not how a President should fight: bringing people together, uniting us against whatever problems may arise?


Don C. Reed is the author of “STEM CELL BATTLES: Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, available now at


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