Donald Trump is exactly where he likes to be. Never before has the American president been the focus of so much global attention and speculation as he is today.
Who knows about North Korea, and there are no media outlets in Antarctica, but everywhere else in the global village, Trump becoming infected with the coronavirus will command the real estate at the top of every Page 1 and will lead newscasts everywhere.
What it means for the U.S. election is anyone’s guess but it certainly will not be a blow that unites a deeply divided nation. Trump’s base, which includes many who regard the coronavirus as a hoax, will still be loyal to their hero. I mean, they stuck with him after he suggested that injecting disinfectant would cure the infection, so why would their faith in their president be shaken now?
Those who support him largely share Trump’s strident antipathy toward wearing a face mask and his repeated violation of social distancing rules and norms by intermingling with crowds of his most ardent admirers.
Given Trump’s raw policies on Obamacare, immigration, the environment and Supreme Court appointments, and with his outrageous views on race relations and ludicrous conspiracy theories, Trump’s illness will not garner him any sympathy from Democrats.
More debatable and far more important is the effect The Donald’s health will have on the small but hugely important number of undecided American voters who continue to sit on the fence because they distrust both Trump and his Democrat rival, Joe Biden. The undecided are the ones whose votes can give the president a second term in the White House or send him back to dealing with his business empire’s rancid books.
The reception overseas to Friday morning’s revelation that Trump has the coronavirus will be much more predictable. Aside from Russia, where his incomprehensible bromance with Vladimir Putin gets him some support, the U.S president is detested and/or regarded as a buffoon by almost everyone. Elsewhere there will be schadenfreude and outright glee at this latest jam of the president’s own making. The world has been aghast at the president’s pathetic response to COVID-19, including his cock-eyed theories about it and how to cure it.
Proof of the world’s dislike for Trump is not hard to find. Every few months, polls gauging world opinion about Trump are extremely unkind to him. A survey of more than 13,000 people conducted in 13 countries over this summer and published last month by the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that only 15 per cent of those polled thought that Donald Trump’s America had done a good job of controlling the virus. If a poll was conducted today, it is a good bet that that figure would be even lower.
Numbers regarding Trump’s global reputation have been among the lowest on record. According to Pew Research, only nine per cent of Belgians had confidence in how Trump handled world affairs. Trump was most popular in Japan, though even there only one in four thought Trump was doing a good job on the world stage.
Pew’s numbers for Canada were similar. “Only 35% of Canadians have a favorable view of their southern neighbor, and 20% trust Trump to do what is right regarding world affairs,” the Washington-based pollster said.
All those figures for Trump are astonishingly bad, especially when compared with those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was regarded favourably by 76 per cent of those surveyed. Even the Russian and Chinese dictators, Putin and Xi Jinping, are more popular in the West than what used to be called the leader of the free world.
The blitz of bad overseas numbers for Trump accord with everything I have seen and heard in the 30 or so countries I have visited since he entered the White House nearly four years ago. Eyes roll almost everywhere at the mere mention of Trump’s name except among some supporters of far-right movements in countries such as France and Sweden.
The president is regarded as a pathetic figure when he is not being lampooned as a buffoon. He is constantly ridiculed or mocked over his latest idiotic remarks or positions. The most frequent question is: how on earth did the world’s beacon of democracy, the United States, elect such a bizarre, vengeful and uninformed man to lead them?
What will be happening across the world right now will be a lot of knowing nods, as if Trump’s getting coronavirus was almost inevitable and a form of divine retribution.
While not universal, the hope of most of the world today is that Trump’s getting the coronavirus will somehow help Joe Biden in his quest to defeat the president.
Matthew Fisher is an international affairs columnist and foreign correspondent who has worked abroad for 35 years. You can follow him on Twitter at @mfisheroverseas