A couple of weeks after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, Donald Trump whined on Twitter about the president-elect moving forward with plans to choose a cabinet. As far as the Republican was concerned, there was still a chance "the courts and/or legislatures" would "flip" states and allow him to claim power he didn't earn.
The tantrum culminated in a notable phrase: "THE WORLD IS WATCHING!!!"
Unfortunately, that was true. The Washington Post reported soon after on international reactions to the outgoing president's attacks on his own country's democracy, leaving foreign observers struggling "to maintain confidence that America's principles and ideals will prevail."
Nearly two months later, as Trump desperately searches for ways to nullify election results he doesn't like, much of the world has not turned away. The New York Times reported today:
President Trump's extraordinary, wheedling telephone call to state officials in Georgia seeking to overturn the election results there has shaken many Europeans — not so much for what it reveals about Mr. Trump himself, but for what it may portend for the health of American democracy.
Patrick Chevallereau, a former French military officer now at RUSI, a defense research institution in London, told the Times that Trump's weekend call "shows that the current president is in a mind-set to do anything — absolutely anything — before Jan. 20. There is zero standard, zero reference, zero ethics." Chevallereau added, "Everything else than himself can be destroyed and collapse, including us."
Just as importantly, the article quoted Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and Americas program at Chatham House, the British research institution, saying, "[B]y far the most troubling thing is the number of Republicans who are willing to go along with [Trump], and what it's doing to the Republican Party, playing out in real time."
But what I found especially interesting was the international response to 10 former Pentagon chiefs -- every living former Defense secretary, including two from the Trump administration -- co-authoring an op-ed recognizing Joe Biden's victory and warning the U.S. military not to get involved in Trump's anti-democracy efforts.
Jana Puglierin, director of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times that the statement from the former Defense secretaries was also an eye-opener in Berlin. "They realized this is serious," Puglierin said. "That they see a reason to write such a letter is shocking."
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a former French and United Nations diplomat who is president of the International Crisis Group, added, "Should we be reassured on U.S. democracy when 10 former defense secretaries warn against use of the military to dispute election results, or terrified that they believe taking a public stance has become necessary?"
Yes, the world is watching. But given Trump's antics, and what's become of his political party, our allies aren't impressed by what they're seeing.