Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Heather Digby Parton: A debate that will live in infamy: That sweaty, red-faced liar is actually our president

We already knew Trump was a national embarrassment. Did he think his sneering-bully act would win back voters?

At the conclusion of the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden on Tuesday night, CNN’s Dana Bash gave the best review of the proceedings: “That was a sh**show.” Her colleague Jake Tapper who described it as “a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck. That was the worst debate I have ever seen. In fact, it wasn’t a debate. It was a disgrace. It’s primarily because of President Trump, who spent the entire time interrupting [and] lying.” Or maybe Rachel Maddow’s assessment on MSNBC — a “monstrous cavalcade of increasingly wild and obscene lies” — draws the most accurate picture of what went down in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

However you want to phrase it, a great truth was expressed by Wolf Blitzer when he opened his show:

I’d like to welcome viewers from here and around the world. Clearly this debate was an embarrassment for the United States …

I would only add that it was an embarrassment entirely because of Donald Trump’s sophomoric behavior, which was more befitting a nasty tween bully trying to shake someone down for his lunch money than the president of the United States. But then, why would we expect otherwise? The Donald Trump whom millions of people watched in horror as he lied, insulted, interrupted and acted like a barbaric brute is who he is virtually every day at his briefings, press avails, interviews and, most especially, the grotesque super-spreader events he calls campaign rallies. To expect him to behave with the decorum befitting the leader of the most powerful country in the world is absurd. He simply doesn’t know how.

Robert Reich: The coming civil war caused by Trump’s ego

Regardless of what happens, Trump’s megalomaniacal ego will prevail

What is America really fighting over in the upcoming election? No particular issue. Not even Democrats versus Republicans.

The central fight is over Donald J Trump.

Before Trump, most Americans weren’t especially passionate about politics. But Trump’s MO has been to force people to become passionate about him – to take fierce sides for or against. And he considers himself president only of the former – whom he calls “my people.”

Trump came to office with no agenda except to feed his monstrous ego. He has never fueled his base. His base has fueled him. Its adoration sustains him.

So does the antipathy of his detractors. Presidents usually try to appease their critics. Trump has gone out of his way to offend them. “I do bring rage out,” Trump unapologetically told journalist Bob Woodward in 2016.

In this way, he has turned America into a gargantuan projection of his own pathological narcissism.

His entire re-election platform is found in his use of the pronouns “we” and “them.” “We” are people who love him, Trump Nation. “They” hate him.

Karen Tumulty: The debate was a nightmare, and a fitting summation of Trump’s presidency

It is hard to imagine that anyone but the most obdurate partisans watching Tuesday’s spectacle wants to see four more years of this.

The nightmare that played out Tuesday evening on a debate stage in Cleveland served at least one useful purpose. It encapsulated, in a single 98-minute span, the entire presidency of Donald J. Trump.

All of the impulses that drive Trump were unleashed: The lying. The rage. The bluster. The incoherence.

It is hard to imagine that anyone but the most obdurate of partisans could have watched the spectacle and thought, Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have four more years of this?

Trump sent fact-checkers into overdrive, though as my Post colleagues pointed out, most of his false claims were retreads of lies that he has previously told.

But on a more fundamental level, Trump showed an uncharacteristic lack of pretense.

In what is likely to be remembered as the debate’s most illuminating moment, the president laid bare the devil’s bargain that he has been willing to make with racism in this country to achieve his ends.

Alexander Vindman and John Gans: Trump Has Sold Off America’s Credibility for His Personal Gain

Lt. Col. Vindman served on the National Security Council. Mr. Gans is the author of “White House Warriors,” a history of the council.

From China to Ukraine, this president has acted at odds with American foreign policy. Imagine what he could do with four more years.

A year ago, the world read a record of a phone call in which President Trump pressured Ukraine’s government to provide dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. The transcript of that call, along with other evidence, made clear the president and his associates asked officials in Kyiv to deliver on Mr. Trump’s political interests in exchange for American military aid needed to defend Ukraine. At the end of last year, the president was impeached for that abuse of power.

This was not a unique instance of Mr. Trump’s personal priorities corrupting American foreign policy. As the 2020 election grew closer, the president increasingly ignored the policies developed by his own government and instead pursued transactions guided by self-interest and instinct. The result is a patchwork of formal policies and informal deals that has undermined America’s interests and credibility. But Mr. Trump’s sloppy management matters less than its result: No one can trust American foreign policy right now.

Thomas L. Friedman: Trump Sent a Warning. Let’s Take It Seriously.

Our democracy is in terrible danger — more than since the Civil War, more than after Pearl Harbor, more than during the Cuban missile crisis.

President Trump has made it unmistakably clear in recent weeks — and even more crystal clear at the Tuesday debate — that there are only two choices before voters on Nov. 3 — and electing Joe Biden is not one of them.

The president has told us in innumerable ways that either he will be re-elected or he will delegitimize the vote by claiming that all mail-in ballots — a time-honored tradition that has ushered Republicans and Democrats into office and has been used by Trump himself — are invalid.

Trump’s motives could not be more transparent. If he does not win the Electoral College, he’ll muddy the results so that the outcome can be decided only by the Supreme Court or the House of Representatives (where each state delegation gets one vote). Trump has advantages in both right now, which he has boasted about for the past week.

I can’t say this any more clearly: Our democracy is in terrible danger — more danger than it has been since the Civil War, more danger than after Pearl Harbor, more danger than during the Cuban missile crisis and more danger than during Watergate.