Trump On The World Stage Was Cringeworthy

Donald Trump at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2018
Former President Donald Trump

One of the most absurd claims the leading candidate for the GOP nomination makes about himself and his term in office is that he restored global respect to the United States. He said it frequently when he was in office, and stressed to Bret Baier three weeks ago that he's running again "because I want to make America great again. We had great — we were respected all over the world. Very simple."

Did you spit out your coffee?

This is one of those claims that, alas, enjoys some currency even among noncultists. Ask your average Republican whether Trump restored America's image around the world and they are quite likely to say yes.

This isn't a case of both sides having a fair point. This is bonkers. Trump was perceived as a boob and a fool the world over. (And by the way, it caused many of our friends to doubt Americans' sanity, too.) He was a global laughingstock. Literally.

Remember when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and launched into his typical bombastic BS about his administration accomplishing more than almost any in history? The assembled delegates, who are VERY accustomed to political exaggeration and even inanity, burst out laughing.

Then, there was the time when European leaders were caught on a hot mic mocking him at a NATO summit in London. Princess Anne, Emmanuel Macron, Mark Rutte, Jens Stoltenberg and Boris Johnson smiled knowingly as Justin Trudeau regaled them with accounts of Trump's antics. Trump was so personally wounded that he cut short his participation in the summit.

International summits were often stages for Trump's cringe-inducing conduct — behavior that many Americans as well as nearly all non-Americans found stunningly gross. Here, he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside in order to pose at the center of the group.

Worse than the shove was his credulity. If a dictator or a thug whispered something in his ear, he believed it. The examples are legion, but since the Montenegro leader was manhandled, let's recall what Trump said about that recent entrant to the alliance. Just days after meeting with Vladimir Putin, Trump told Tucker Carlson that Montenegrins are "very aggressive people ... They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you're in World War III."

Let's be real, before that meeting with Putin, what are the chances that Trump had ever heard of Montenegro, far less had views about their national character? Naturally, it was in Putin's interest for Trump to think that enlarging NATO threatened World War III. And Trump believed it, not necessarily out of stupidity (though we can't rule that out) but because his sick attraction to naked power made him unusually susceptible to Putin's propaganda.

Trump routinely insulted allies like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May. At one summit, he reportedly reached into his pocket for some candy, threw them across the table to Merkel and smirked, "Don't say I never gave you anything." Americans elected a mental seven-year-old.

Not just a child, but a ridiculous child. He attempted to buy Greenland from the Danes, and when he was rebuffed, he canceled a planned diplomatic visit to Copenhagen.

His initial fiery bluster against North Korea was unnerving and his later obsequious fawning was vile. Neither accomplished anything except to remind the world what a moron America had elevated.

Trump wasn't just a joke, though. His obvious instability and tenuous hold on reality were unnerving to the world. His "America First" slogan alienated allies. And his softness toward dictators and strongmen emboldened adversaries.

International opinion polls leave no doubt about how America's reputation fared under Trump. In September 2020, Pew found:

"America's reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the [Pew Research] Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago."

Some of this was in response to the U.S. handling of COVID-19. Among 13 European nations, only an average of 31 percent held a positive view of the United States, while only 16 percent expressed confidence in Trump. In fact, Trump was less trusted than the leaders of Germany, France, the U.K., China, or Russia.

President Joe Biden has gone some way toward restoring America's global image. Pew reports that a new survey of public opinion in 23 countries finds an average of 59 percent holding favorable views of the United States and 54 percent having confidence in Biden.

Though views of the United States have improved during the Biden years, doubts must persist. Hell, they persist among Americans. Though other presidents have been unpopular (George W. Bush in particular), our foreign friends and foes never before had to wonder about America's political stability. Confidence about that will take years to rebuild, or just another election to wreck utterly.

Mona Charen is policy editor of The Bulwark and host of the "Beg to Differ" podcast. Her new book, Hard Right: The GOP's Drift Toward Extremism, is available now.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.


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