At a Buckingham Palace reception on Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson were recorded sharing a few candid thoughts as the latest NATO summit neared its conclusion. Not surprisingly, they appeared to have some concerns about Donald Trump.
The recorded rhetoric could’ve been far worse, though there was one obvious takeaway from the incident: the leaders of some of the United States’ closest allies clearly don’t have much respect for the current American president.
And as the Washington Post reported, that simple fact has become the basis for a striking new campaign ad.
Former vice president Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, released a new campaign ad late Wednesday highlighting the NATO video in a blistering critique of Trump’s ability to lead on the global stage. Biden’s campaign also mocked Trump’s repeated insistence that the U.S. requires a president who isn’t a “laughing stock,” ending the ad with a graphic that read, “We need a leader the world respects.” By early Thursday, the roughly minute-long video had been watched more than 4 million times.
“The world is laughing at President Trump,” Biden tweeted. “They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.”
In the latter half of the ad, the Democratic candidate describes the president as “insincere, ill-informed, corrupt, dangerously incompetent, and incapable, in my view, of world leadership.”
Biden added, “And if we give Donald Trump four more years, we’ll have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America’s standing in the world, and our capacity to bring nations together.”
If you watch the clip, note that this week’s exchange in London isn’t the only featured example of Trump facing ridicule on the international stage. The Biden campaign’s ad also shows the Republican being laughed at during remarks at the United Nations, among other embarrassing moments. (My personal favorite remains Trump’s decision to push aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic at a 2017 NATO gathering in preparation for a group photo.)
Why is it that this ad has struck a chord so quickly? I think there are a few angles to keep in mind.
First, Biden’s line of attack has real merit. It’s critically important to U.S. interests to maintain a credible leadership role on the global stage, and the more Trump is seen as a hapless buffoon, the worse it is for our foreign policy agenda. It’s unambiguously, quantifiably true that the current American president fails to generate respect, and that realization deserves to be part of the 2020 conversation.
Second, ads like these are likely to drive Trump toward apoplexy – and when the Republican is pushed to the edge and beyond, he tends to make mistakes.
And third, the Biden campaign is, oddly enough, picking up on a theme Republicans themselves have stressed as important. As regular readers know, Barack Obama’s GOP detractors seemed absolutely convinced that the Democratic president had done real damage to the United States’ international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world – and it was Obama’s fault.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States was “perceived throughout the world.” (In 2014, Trump also tweeted, “We need a President who isn’t a laughing stock to the entire World. We need a truly great leader, a genius at strategy and winning. Respect!”)
Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”’
It wasn’t true then, but it is true now, and it’s poised to become part of the 2020 debate.