There are few arguments Donald Trump repeats more than this: “The United States is respected again.” The president said it at yesterday’s White House press conference on the new NAFTA, just as he’s said at every recent campaign rally, just as he’s tweeted it over and over and over again.
The boast is based on a couple of absurd assumptions, including Trump’s belief that Barack Obama was an international laughingstock who commanded no respect abroad, and Trump’s insistence that people the world over now look at the United States as a country led by a legendary giant of history.
It’d all be rather amusing if it weren’t so sad.
The image of the United States around the world has fallen substantially since Donald J. Trump became president, according to a poll of foreigners in 25 countries that was released on Monday.
The drop has been particularly steep in parts of Europe and Latin America, according to the survey of 26,112 respondents by the Pew Research Center, an independent survey and research group, that was conducted between May 20 and Aug. 12.
When diplomats literally laughed at Trump during his remarks at the U.N. General Assembly last week, it reflected a degree of disdain that’s borne out in international polling. (The full report from the Pew Research Center is online here.)
During Obama’s presidency, Republicans chose a line of attack that, in retrospect, was hilariously misguided. As regular readers know, 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 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 Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States was “perceived throughout the world.” 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.”’
A few years later, it all seems rather ironic.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because the latest data from Pew isn’t the first piece of evidence we’ve seen in this larger indictment. Last year’s report from the Pew Research Center on global attitudes pointed in a similar direction, as did a report from Gallup, which reported in January, “One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, the image of U.S. leadership is weaker worldwide than it was under his two predecessors.”
The more Trump insists he’s rescued our reputation on the international stage, the more important it is to remind everyone that the Republican has this exactly backwards. Among the notable details from the new Pew report:
* 70% of people around the world lack confidence in Trump.
* Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are both held in higher regard internationally than Trump.
* There are a handful of countries, including Japan, in which Trump’s standing has improved as compared to last year, but he’s still short of Obama’s level of support.
In a Washington Post piece, Dan Drezner concluded, “Trump can say that America is respected again as much as he likes, but the public opinion data is clear on this point. A majority of Americans do not believe the country is more respected now than in the past. Foreign populations neither trust nor respect the United States more under Trump. Donald Trump’s America is less respected across the world. The president has succeeded in little beyond making America anxious about its global standing again.”