Calmes: Trump 1.0 made some world leaders laugh. Trump 2.0 terrifies them

Not a joke, as Joe Biden might say.

I’m talking about our country: America is no joke, no matter how many times Donald Trump claims it is.

One of his most obnoxious lies at every rally and in most interviews is his contention that, with Biden as president, a disrespectful world is laughing at us. Trump was at it again last week, at his most recent rally in Green Bay, Wis., claiming the United States is a global laughingstock.

“Joe Biden is not respected and Joe Biden is not feared” among the world’s nations, he told his fawning crowd. But once he, Trump, is reelected, “America will soon be respected again, very quickly respected, like never before.”

Like virtually all Trumpisms, this one is demonstrably false.

“Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, publics around the world held the United States in low regard,” the Pew Research Center reported soon after he left office. Its 2020 survey found that among 13 allied nations, the share of people who had a favorable view of America was the lowest it had been in the two decades since Pew began asking the question. Good feelings toward the United States rebounded after Biden took office and remained favorable by a 2-to-1 ratio last year.

It’s almost laughable, Trump’s projection of his own unpopularity onto Biden. Except that too many Americans believe him.

As for foreign leaders, they’re not laughing at the United States or Trump. They’re openly fretting that the pro-authoritarian neo-isolationist whose crude credo is “America First” could return to power. Their agita is pretty astounding, really.

They don’t respect Trump at all, though they do fear him — the way you’d fear a madman at the nuclear button. President Nixon sought leverage by making foreign counterparts think he was unstable; Trump actually is unstable. Foreign diplomats and some leaders don’t even mask their anxiety. They mostly speak anonymously, in case he actually regains power, but they speak nonetheless, ignoring norms against opining about another country’s election.

Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton has said repeatedly that even the autocrats Trump admires — Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong Un, among others — “think he’s a laughing fool.”

The Japanese have a phrase for their Trump trepidation, the Washington Post reported ahead of this week’s state visit by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. “ ‘Moshi-tora,’ ” according to the Post reporter in Tokyo, “encapsulates the mild panic brewing here. … It’s a shorthand for: What if Donald Trump wins?”

“It makes us nervous,” former Japanese lawmaker Mieko Nakabayashi told the Post. “We have to start thinking. That is the true purpose of ‘moshi-tora’: alarming ourselves to think about the unthinkable.”

Americans know the feeling.

Meanwhile, the Japanese edition of Newsweek had a cover drawing of Trump as a bloody, frightening apparition, calling to mind either villain or vampire.

Friendly nations, including Japan, reliant for more than seven decades on a rules-based system of alliances led by the United States, justifiably worry that a reelected Trump will succeed at breaking those alliances. They fear a trade war and economic tremors from his promised tariffs. They expect he’d abandon Ukraine, demanding that it cede Crimea and the Donbas region to Russia and thereby encouraging Putin’s expansionism in Europe. They sweat his odd affinity for Xi in China and Kim in North Korea, as the two men threaten neighbors who count on the United States to be a counterweight.

On the sidelines at NATO’s 75th birthday commemoration last week in Brussels, attendees commiserated about a potential Trump 2.0, and talked about “Trump-proofing” the alliance generally and support for Ukraine specifically. How could they not after Trump crowed at a MAGA rally in February that he would encourage the Russians “to do whatever the hell they want” to NATO-member countries that in his view aren’t spending enough on their own defense?

Trump’s claim that the world is laughing at us isn’t unique to Biden’s era. He’s been babbling that for years, since the administration of Republicans’ sainted Ronald Reagan. But he gets the target wrong. When the world has laughed at our expense, it was laughing, literally, at Trump.

Cue the blooper reels. In 2018, thenPresident Trump was the joke at the United Nations General Assembly when he began his address by boasting that he’d achieved more in two years than any president in U.S. history. The delegates burst into guffaws. In 2019, the leaders of Britain, France, Canada and the Netherlands, along with Britain’s Princess Anne, were captured on a hot mic mocking Trump over cocktails during a NATO summit. Trump packed up and flew home — in time, had he wanted, to see the “Saturday Night Live” skit lampooning him as the goofball shunned by the cool kids in the NATO cafeteria.

Such yuks at Trump’s expense were easier then — before Jan. 6, Ukraine and his many former advisors’ post-presidency alarms about the danger he poses should he get back in the White House. Experience is a teacher: Trump is no longer a laughing matter.


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