"The Buddha is the "thing" that has these qualities"
A buddha means a person without defilements.
What is a person?
The five aggregates.
What are the defilements?
Desire, anger, ignorance.
Do we reach a "true self" by removing clinging? No.
Do we annihilate everything? No.
Could this person without defilements be called free from all suffering and full of wisdom and compassion? Yes.
Are the defilements permanently eliminated? Yes.
Could this be called a permanent state of liberation? Yes.
Is there really an actual thing or entity that is permanently free from defilements? No.
Very nicely put.
I don't know if any of these quotes from various masters will matter to someone quoting from the Pali Canon,
but they express what is generally understood as what the Buddha taught.
If one asserts that a 'self' remains after the skhandas have been abandoned,
(or at least after clinging to them ceases)
If such a self is dependently arisen, it can't be a 'self'.
If it is not
dependently arisen, and is what is referred to as 'atman',
then either what establishes it can only be determined
by contrasting it with whatever it is not,
and likewise can't be called a 'self'
or else it has no defining characteristics whatsoever,
and thus cannot be called a 'self'.
Any way you work it, no 'self' .