The world is wary of Donald Trump. Across a wide swath of advanced countries, large numbers of people say they simply don't trust Trump to do the right thing in world affairs, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center. Even in the United States, Trump has struggled to prove his readiness on foreign policy, but those looking in from the outside seem especially skeptical.
It seems like ages ago, but the United States' international reputation took a severe hit during the Bush/Cheney years. As the war in Iraq dragged on, there were anecdotal reports about Americans traveling abroad with Canadian flags sewn onto their belongings, hoping to avoid confrontations with critics of U.S. policies and leaders.
And yet, in recent years, Republicans have invested enormous energy into an odd talking point: President Obama, they insist, has damaged America's global standing. It's not only bizarre because it was George W. Bush who actually hurt our credibility abroad, but also because there is quite a bit of evidence that our standing has improved throughout much of the world under Obama's leadership.
As the Obama era wraps up, however, international observers are keeping an eye on our presidential election, and there's fresh data showing that the world has confidence in one of the American candidates -- but not the other. The Boston Globe reported today:
Pew polled 15 countries, and literally none of them had confidence that Trump could be relied on "to do the right thing regarding world affairs." The Republican's best numbers were in China, but that's not saying much -- a mere 22% of Chinese respondents said they trusted the GOP candidate.
In 13 or the 15 countries included in the Pew Research Center report, people had more confidence in Russia's Vladimir Putin than Trump.
For Hillary Clinton, the numbers were largely reversed. Though the Democrat fared poorly in China and Greece, in most of the 15 countries surveyed, people said the former Secretary of State could be counted on "to do the right thing regarding world affairs."
The same report found that, in much of the world, both President Obama's and the United States' reputation is quite good, especially in Europe, recovering from the Bush/Cheney era.
I suspect some will say polling results like these don't much matter, but remember, Republicans have spent the last several years insisting that international perceptions of the United States are of the utmost importance. Donald Trump, in particular, has whined incessantly throughout his campaign about "how poorly" the United States is perceived abroad. "The world is laughing at us," he likes to complain.
It matters that Trump's rhetoric is completely wrong, but it matters just as much that his election would intensify the very problem he claims to have identified.