Trump is the laughingstock of the world, and that's a problem
In his Tuesday speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Donald Trump did something that is incredibly rare: he spoke before an audience that wasn’t hand-selected as Trump supporters. And in doing so, he discovered that there were still people out there unwilling to pretend the emperor’s clothes were anything less than a joke. As the New York Times reports, what Trump said in front of the assembled crowd was to him “little more than a minor boast.” It was a “well-worn line” about Trump’s vast accomplishment that is regularly trotted out for attendees of his frequent rallies. It certainly wasn’t intended as a punch line, but that’s the reaction it received.
On the planet’s biggest stage, with more than 100 world leaders gathered with their ministers, ambassadors and dignitaries of every stripe, while news cameras from as many countries broadcast the speech in as many languages, they laughed.
As Dana Milbank states at the Washington Post, Donald Trump frequently insisted during his campaign that “the world is laughing at us.” It wasn’t true then. But it is now.
And that’s an issue. It’s not just an issue for the fact that being the laughingstock of the world is never a good look for any country. It’s the sort of position that leads to groups of erstwhile allies creating new alliances that pointedly excise the butt of the joke—as America’s allies did on the very same day in creating a treaty to route around the ill-considered withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. It’s an issue because the laughter is overshadowing the remainder of the speech. Trump wanted to the world to listen to the rest of that speech. They really, really should. So should America.
If his rambling address, the words that Trump delivered at the UN weren’t just un-American, that is, lacking in support for those things America has long supported and believed it. They were deliberately and provocatively anti-American, as in directly counter to the principles of the nation, to studied positions achieved after only much trial, and to the continued health of the United States and the world. Hiding behind the snickers was a thunderclap—the sound of a door closing firmly on the “American century.”
It would be both inaccurate and more than a little silly to suggest that the tide of neo-fascist nationalism, racism, and xenophobia that’s pressing liberal democracy across the world state began with Trump. But Trump’s victory showed that what had been taking as a passing cloud was in fact a gathering storm, one that could hit anywhere. And it revealed that the face America wanted to present to the world—of a “good” nation that supports justice, fights for the oppressed, speaks out against dictators, and seeks fairness in its dealings—is the self-delusion that our worst enemies have always claimed.