When I talk to my friends and relatives all over the world, I find that every single country in which they live has a government that is dealing with the pandemic rationally and based on the best expert knowledge even though the strategies have differed in details during to the local context and the resources available. One common reaction is that they marvel at what an idiot Trump is and feel sorry for me that we have to live with someone as incompetent as him at the helm of combating a dangerous and difficult situation. That view of how the rest of the world views us is not purely anecdotal
Across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, views of the US handling of the coronavirus crisis are uniformly negative and range from horror through derision to sympathy. Donald Trump’s musings from the White House briefing room, particularly his thoughts on injecting disinfectant, have drawn the attention of the planet.
“Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger,” the columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times. “But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.”
The US has emerged as a global hotspot for the pandemic, a giant petri dish for the Sars-CoV-2 virus. As the death toll rises, Trump’s claims to global leadership have became more far-fetched. He told Republicans last week that he had had a round of phone calls with Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe and other unnamed world leaders and insisted “so many of them, almost all of them, I would say all of them” believe the US is leading the way.
None of the leaders he mentioned has said anything to suggest that was true.
A poll in France last week found Merkel to be far and away the most trusted world leader. Just 2% had confidence Trump was leading the world in the right direction. Only Boris Johnson and Xi Jinping inspired less faith.
Dacian Cioloș, a former prime minister of Romania who now leads the Renew Europe group in the European parliament, captured a general European view this week as the latest statistics on deaths in the US were reported.
“Post-truth communication techniques used by rightwing populism movements simply do not work to beat Covid-19,” he told the Guardian. “And we see that populism cost lives.”
Trump’s decision not to take part in a global effort to find a vaccine, and his abrupt severance of financial support to the WHO at the height of the pandemic, added outrage and prompted complaints that the US was surrendering its role of global leadership.
There is a palpable sense of relief among Chinese state commentators that the US president’s antics have diverted some of the anger that would otherwise have been aimed at Beijing.
“Only by making Americans hate China can they make sure that the public might overlook the fact that Trump’s team is stained with the blood of Americans,” said an English-language Global Times editorial late last month.
Its editor, Hu Xijin, tweeted: “US system used to be appealing to many Chinese people. But through the pandemic, Chinese saw US government’s incompetence in outbreak control, disregard for life and its overt lies. Washington’s political halo has little left.”
Even the highly regarded British medical journal The Lancet has come out with an editorial calling on Americans to vote out Trump in November as the first step to rebuilding its scientific credibility and restoring faith in the CDC that Trump has so dangerously undermined.
But Trump seems to think that simply lying will keep reality at bay. Note how in a single sentence (“so many of them, almost all of them, I would say all of them”) he goes from exaggeration to superlative in real time since in his own mind he desperately needs to persuade himself that he is the best. The sad fact is that he likely believes his own lies.
He is indeed pitiful and he is dragging the country down with him.