Michael Gerson (Washington Post) has a stinging evaluation of Trump's debate performance, Out of his depth, Donald Trump clings to deception. (Gerson's article was reprinted in this morning's Daily Star as its main editorial.) Here is its conclusion.
Past debate criticism has looked for hints and signs to determine losers — a candidate, say, looked impatiently at his watch or sighed in an off-putting way. Rhetorically, Trump drove a high-speed train filled with fireworks into a nuclear power plant. He was self-absorbed, prickly, defensive, interrupting, baited by every charge yet unprepared to refute them. During his share of a 90-minute debate, he was horribly out of his depth, incapable of stringing together a coherent three-sentence case. The postmodern quality of Trump’s appeal culminated in an unbalanced rant claiming, “I also have a much better temperament than she has” — an assertion greeted by audience laughter. And Trump concluded his performance by praising himself for his own grace and restraint, during an evening that showed him to be nasty, witless and deceptive. It should now be clear to Republicans: Vanity is his strategy.
Trump’s defenders will charge his critics with elitism. The great public, it is argued, gets Trump in a way that the commenting class does not. But this claim is now fully exposed. The expectation of rationality is not elitism. Coherence is not elitism. Knowledge is not elitism. Honoring character is not elitism. And those who claim this are debasing themselves, their party and their country.