Lost among the repetitive sniffing, the incoherent rants about "the cyber," and his non-canonical lack of restraint or decency on the presidential debate stage, Republican Donald Trump threatened to abandon at least two of our closest Eastern allies unless they help pay for our diplomatic and military aid.
There were nearly too many egregious violations of every presidential debate rule to properly index all of them — any one of which would have ended the presidential aspirations of any previous candidate. Which was worse? Al Gore walking up to George W. Bush and muttering "Dingell Norwood," a move that many believe cost Gore the 2000 election or Trump confirming that he doesn't pay federal taxes; that, yes, he was, in fact, sued for refusing to rent to African-American tenants; that Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton isn't "presidential" because she's a woman; that he engaged in a five-year racist crusade against the first African-American president's background; or that in the face of all his yelling and his used-car salesman "believe me" guarantees, he claimed to have a better temperament than Clinton?
Our system and, yes, 45 percent of the American voting public is so unrecognizably damaged, perhaps beyond repair, that this incompetent man-child has made it this far and, worse, has not been summarily eliminated from contention following his historically epic meltdown on Monday night.
While we're discussing Trump's heretofore undisclosed health issues and his misogynistic mansplaining to a woman who's absolutely his superior in every way — competence, experience and, yes, temperament — we almost overlooked Trump's dangerous remarks about how he would likely abandon many of our closest international partners in peace. Worse, Clinton was forced to apologize for Trump's knee-jerk awfulness to at least two of those partners. Again, Clinton had to apologize to make sure our allies recognize that we plan to honor our treaty obligations, per domestic and international laws.
As Trump said:
"The single greatest problem the world has is nuclear armament, nuclear weapons, not global warming, like you think and your — your president thinks. 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."
Yes, we defend other countries. As the last remaining superpower, that is what we do. It's our role in the world. Likewise those nations provide us with bases, intelligence, technology and so on. It's fair to say without these treaties, there would be many more overseas conflicts and surely ones that involve shooting. Nevertheless, with the entire world tuning into the proceedings, Trump made it perfectly clear — in the context of nuclear weapons, no less — that our allies would be left to fend for themselves unless they ponied up some cash.
And naturally this required the only responsible leader on the stage, Hillary Clinton, to clean up Trump's mess: a growing pile of harrowing threats.
"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."
I'd wager a month's salary that Trump has never even uttered the phrase "mutual defense treaties" and that he has no understanding that such documents exist or that they're binding. It makes sense really, given that Trump has abandoned thousands of subcontractors without payment despite agreements to the contrary. But amid all of his otherwise career-ending gaffes and blurts (under normal rules, that is), Clinton had no choice but to interject with an apology so as to maintain solid relations with our partners on the international stage — all because Trump thinks honoring our treaties is a matter of personal whimsy.
In fact, Clinton wasn't just apologizing to world for Trump. By proxy, Clinton was also apologizing for 45 percent of American voters who think this smirking Twitter troll is presidential material, and that it's OK if we renege on our defense obligations.
Now just imagine how Trump will actually comport himself when and if he's elected. Imagine the unnecessary conflicts in which we'd become entangled with otherwise friendly nations because Trump and his gaggle of cheerleaders don't realize what's going on. This is far worse than the bungling antics of George W. Bush. Trump would make enemies out of friendlies and launch shooting wars with unfriendlies. And the irony is the white non-college-educated men who compose Trump's legion of fanboys would be stationed on the front lines as designated bullet blockers in those wars.
For now, however, the overseas reaction was tentative:
In the Philippines, Victor Andres Manhit, president of the think tank Albert del Rosario Institute for Strategic and International Studies, welcomed Clinton’s assurances that the U.S. would honor its treaty obligations if she becomes president:
“I’m really hoping that that kind of statement reminds our own government that we have an ally in the United States vis-a-vis our fight for territorial integrity and our maritime rights in the South China Sea,” he said.
And in South Korea, Cho June-Hyuck, a foreign ministry spokesman, said it would be inappropriate for the Seoul government to respond to comments made by U.S. presidential candidates in the run-up to the vote. Trump said during the debate that South Korea should burden larger costs for the U.S. troops stationed in the peninsula and that the United States should let China have a larger role in controlling the actions of North Korea.
Japan's business-oriented Nikkei Asian Review called Clinton the clear winner, headlining its lead story “Bullish Hillary Tamed Trump Face Off In 1st TV debate.”
In addition, Narushige Mischishita, a Japanese analyst, said it was in some ways heartening to hear his country mentioned in the debate, since Japan is often overlooked these days. But he disagreed with Trump’s criticism that Japan and other U.S. allies aren’t contributing enough to their defense.
It's not a matter of whether a Trump presidency would destabilize the world economy and our relations with international alliances; it's how apocalyptic the destruction would be. Until now, members of the international community has been following along in a cursory way, not unlike swing voters, but now that they're getting a glimpse of the two contenders side-by-side, the contrast couldn't be more striking.
And if Trump ends up winning, we're in for a long, cold four years of unpredictable mayhem on a global scale. Trump has to lose this election. And last night's debate gave us and the world countless new reasons why.