Hund bider mand (igen)

Once again it’s newsworthy that America’s status in the world is declining under a Republican president.  Berlingske shares the news:

Siden årtusindeskiftet har analysecentret Pew Resarch Center målt, hvordan udlandet ser på USA. Og aldrig før har meningsmålingerne været så negative som nu.

Pew Research elaborates: ”By wide margins, people in Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy all disapprove of his handling of international policy, and the American president does not inspire much more confidence in these countries than does Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

And you’re thinking, Whoa! If Trump is doing that badly, maybe it really is news!

Except that last quote was from 2001, back when there was a different fascist neo-Nazi American president. It’s from a Pew survey in August 2001, and the president being referred to is George W. Bush.

My point is that as news stories go, “Europeans disapprove of a Republican president” isn’t even a dog-bites-man story. It’s more of a “dog uses back paw to scratch behind his ear” kind of story. That is: it’s not a story. It’s not news. It’s not even interesting.

I mean, consider this Pew chart from 2016:

Europeans in the aggregate have never approved, and probably never will approve, of any Republican American president and, as the chart above shows, are reflexively much more supportive of American presidents from the left.  Note those spikes on Obama’s first year in office–a year in which he won the Nobel Peace Prize for no apparent reason and did very little else beyond speechifying.   (Only in Spain did Obama’s approval go up from that first year high.)

I’ve never understood western Europeans’ instinctive contempt for American Republicans or their unconditional affection for American Democrats.  I realize the political center of gravity on the continent is well to the left of America’s, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to justify the scope or intensity of their disapproval.

I could understand a 10-15 point swing in approval on the basis of that difference in our political centers, but the one-year swing of 50 or 60 points from Bush’s last year to Obama’s first is crazy.  It suggests an almost childish simplicity in the European populace.

There are, of course, real differences in policy between Republican and Democrat presidents, but with respect to their actual impact outside America’s borders, those differences are minor and most often more symbolic than substantive.

In fact, Pew has looked into Americans’ partisan differences on foreign policy priorities, and Republicans and Democrats don’t see the world very differently in terms of America’s most important foreign policy partners.

There’s clear partisan disagreement on the significance of Israel and Democrats appear a little more enamored of Germany, but otherwise these are very similar priorities.

(Maybe Germany’s particular contempt for Trump has to do with his inability to get that wall built?  Twice as many Germans as Americans believe that fewer or no immigrants should be allowed to move into their country, according to a March 2019 survey.)

So I’m not surprised that Trump has the lowest-ever approval ratings in Europe. I doubt a President Cruz or Rubio, or McCain or Romney, would have done much better.

But let’s come back to this most recent Pew Survey and take a look at one of their findings that that actually does tell a significant story:

This chart actually deserves some serious attention because it illustrates something very troubling about the survey respondents in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.

The troubling thing is: they’re apparently morons.

I try to be conciliatory, I try not to let myself get swept away by emotion, I don’t like trading in the cheap currency of insults, but any westerner who has more confidence in Xi and Putin than they do in Trump to “do the right thing regarding world affairs” is either stupid, ignorant, uninformed, misinformed, or all of the above. You don’t have to approve of Trump as a person or a president to recognize Putin and Xi for the monsters they are.

But look at that list of survey countries. They’re all affluent “western” democracies and only one of them (South Korea) shares a border with a threatening neighbor.

I wonder what kind of results we’d see if we surveyed the people of, say, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, or Latvia.

I mentioned this in another post recently, but it bears repeating: Donald Trump is the first American president since Jimmy Carter not to have committed American “boots on the ground” in foreign military entanglements. That’s after nearly one full term in office.

To sincerely believe that Putin and Xi are more likely than Trump to “do the right thing” with respect to world affairs, you’d have to believe that backing out of the Iran deal and the Paris accords (neither of which was being honored very faithfully by its other signatories) and asking NATO partners to pay their agreed-upon share of a mutual defense treaty is actually worse for the world than, say, rolling tanks into Ukraine, or annexing Crimea, or smothering Hong Kong, or setting up concentration camps for Uighurs, or liquidating political and media opposition, or unleashing a deadly fucking global pandemic.

Do the surveyed populations really believe that, or are they just “having a piss?”

Most troubling of all to me, personally, is that even here in Denmark there is more confidence in Xi (16%) and Putin (12%) than in Trump (10%).

Is that what we think? Is that what we really believe? Danes have 60% more confidence in Xi than in Trump?

These aren’t the crazy years.

They’re the stupid years.