Respect is a big deal to Donald Trump, who likes to cut a macho figure in the public arena and who frequently criticized his predecessor in office for failing to be respected by foreign leaders. The American public, however, believes that it’s Trump himself who doesn’t inspire respect. Indeed, a new Gallup poll shows that by a stunning 29-67 margin, Americans think foreign leaders don’t have much respect for Trump.
That’s dramatically worse than Americans’ assessment of the state of American leadership under either Barack Obama or George W. Bush.
Obama did fall off that 67 percent high, but Gallup reports that last year 45 percent of Americans felt he was respected by foreign leaders — still far higher than Trump’s honeymoon rating.
One could try to say this is just so much the worse for the foreign leaders. But Trump himself has repeatedly called out an ability to inspire respect in the eyes of foreign governments as a key presidential attribute.
This spring, he slammed Obama as not respected by Cuban leadership.
Wow, President Obama just landed in Cuba, a big deal, and Raul Castro wasn't even there to greet him. He greeted Pope and others. No respect— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2016
In February, he said the problem with Obama’s anti-ISIS campaign was that Obama didn’t inspire respect.
ISIS is making big threats today - no respect for U.S.A. or our "leader" - If I win it will be a very different story,with very fast results— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2016
Back in June 2015, he suggested that a lack of respect from Chinese leadership was a problem.
China just hacked our federal government & stole gov. workers’ information. Why do our leaders let China get away with this?! No respect.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2015
And of course, in 2014 (and on many other occasions) he indicated that a desire for respect drove his thinking about Russia.
I believe Putin will continue to re-build the Russian Empire. He has zero respect for Obama or the U.S.!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2014
Indeed, Putin’s alleged lack of respect for Obama is a drum Trump has been beating for years.
Putin has no respect for our President --- really bad body language.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2012
Trump’s actual foreign policy thus far has largely consisted of gaffe-filled telephone calls, but he did make one substantive gesture — trying to use Taiwanese independence as a bargaining chip to secure trade concessions from China. Pretty much everyone warned Trump that this wouldn’t work, and this morning the White House conceded as much and agreed that it will back the “One China” policy as a precondition for talks rather than in exchange for anything.
Admitting that his bluff was dumb is a better idea than sending US-China relations into a downward spiral. But opening your foreign policy with a series of dumb bluffs followed by folding isn’t a great way to command respect.