[Cross-posted at Orcinus.]
There was a moment in Monday's presidential debate that has been mostly overlooked in the postmortem commentary that, in my mind, really irrevocably defined the race. Once we saw it, we couldn't unsee it.
It came about two-thirds of the way through the affair, when Trump actually suggested on national TV that the United States threaten to abrogate its solemn mutual-defense treaties in order to maybe get a better deal or blackmail money out of them:
TRUMP: Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing — we’re losing — we lose on everything. I say, who makes these — we lose on everything. All I said, that it’s very possible that if they don’t pay a fair share, because this isn’t 40 years ago where we could do what we’re doing. We can’t defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million...
HOLT: We need to move on.
TRUMP: Well, wait, but it’s very important. All I said was, they may have to defend themselves or they have to help us out. We’re a country that owes $20 trillion. They have to help us out.
When Clinton had her turn, she took a moment and looked directly into the camera and reassured those same allies Trump had just threatened:
CLINTON: Well, let me — let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them.
It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.
In that moment, we saw a real President of the United States, standing clear and strong and steady. Clinton became, in that moment, more than the globe-trotting Secretary of State she has been, and became the President she was born to be, for all of us to see.
Trump, in contrast, stood revealed as the shambling clown he has never stopped being, the bizarre existential threat to democracy that Republicans have cooked up for American voters this year. For having done so, they deserve eternal banishment from our politics.
Monday was a bad night overall for Trump. I came up with a video detailing the 12 worst moments that sent his dumpster fire of a campaign careering off into the abyss -- including his sneering assurance that avoiding paying any federal taxes "makes me smart" and his word-salad defense of the "birther" advocacy that set the foundation for his presidential run. Capped off, of course, with his bragadocious and bootylicious boast that of course he had the superior temperament to be president: "A winning temperament."
And all the rest of us saw was a loser.
Enjoy. I think you'll see a campaign going up in eternal flames here.