Mona Charen

Trump on the world stage was cringeworthy

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 non-cultists. 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 7-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% held a positive view of the United States, while only 16% 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% holding favorable views of the United States and 54% 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.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

One Comment

  1. Let’s see…
    So it’s a popularity contest?
    The United States gives away its citizen’s hard-earned money and that makes us more popular around the world? And that’s the most important thing in your eyes?

    Let’s deal in facts instead of feelings…

    As I recall more money was collected from NATO members than at any other time. No new military engagements invasions etc happened under the watch of the last president.
    Chummy with dictators embolden them? Hogwash. Meeting with enemies was the sound strategy that kept Korea from firing off ballistic missiles over Japan which happens regularly now. China did not invade the airspace of Taiwan with hundreds of jets monthly back then. Russia did not invade Ukraine under the last president but did so twice under Obama / Biden.
    We implemented strong trade policy against China including tariffs which were working back then. The former administration made the strongest trade agreement ever done with China and now under Biden they are simply ignoring it and this current administration has done nothing to force the implementation of the agreement which would have never happened under the other president.

    Remember the Chinese virus at the former president called the Chinese virus? Turns out he was 100% correct. This cowardly administration won’t even say it publicly.

    Our current president has direct conflicts of interest. His whole family has received money from China Russia and Ukraine. Apparently up to 20 million or more so far under 20 different shell corporations formed by the Biden family.

    Look at the Mexican border… millions upon millions of illegals nearly 2 million gottaways as well have flooded into the country which did not happen under the last administration. And now we are responsible for feeding educating medicating these border Invaders under this week leadership.

    Look at it domestically…
    Look around interest is higher than it has been in decades people can’t afford housing. While wages have gone up real wages are down costing the average family over $10k
    Due to inflation.
    Gasoline is hovering at $4 a gallon.
    We have the lowest level of the strategic petroleum reserve because this President wasted it for midterm votes.

    We are closer to nuclear war than ever before. Iran is regularly seizing ships in the Middle East. South America is now a sphere of influence of the Chinese no longer the USA.

    I would rather our adversaries fear us than the Europeans who are almost all in recession be nice and say nice things because we are yet again bailing their countries out of the European war. And this weak president is doing it piecemeal to cause the maximum number of casualties death and destruction on both sides instead of doing the job right in the first place and things would be finished.

    Why on Earth should we want approval from proven liars like Justin Trudeau when they lock up their citizens and confiscate their money for dissenting?
    Facts don’t care about your feelings

    Your personal touchy-feely hatred for the former president has made you blind to the good of your country.

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