On Tuesday, world leaders and other delegates met at Buckingham Palace for NATO summit in London, which was meant to promote the unity of the alliance. One of the more significant events that unfolded involved Canada’s own Prime Minister. Trudeau was caught on video by the press, gossiping with the other leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, about the U.S. president. The video is almost strange to watch- it isn’t often that the general public gets to hear this type of talk coming from world leaders. Trump, after the video was released, called Trudeau “two-faced”, but acknowledged that he was, overall, a “good guy”.
In America, Democratic presidential candidates have already jumped on the news, working quickly to use it to their advantage. On Wednesday, the Biden campaign ran an election ad featuring the video clip. “The world is laughing at President Trump,” the ad read, “they see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership”. While this bold statement is obviously an exaggeration for his own benefit, there may be some truth to it.
In fact, it was a sentiment echoed internationally. In a press conference in London following the incident, a reporter asked Boris Johnson: “do you not take President Trump seriously?” Johnson quickly asserted that this was “nonsense” and that he “does not know where that’s come from”. However, for these politicians, their actions may speak louder than their words. Johnson, for example, avoided being photographed with Trump, potentially fearing that it might impact his image prior to the December 12th general election in England. Even Emmanuel Macron stood by his comments that NATO had been suffering from “brain death”, partly due to Trump’s lack of leadership, calling the alliance a “burden we all share”. Trump called his comments “insulting”, but Macron refused to back down. Looking at the incident in the press video combined with the other events at the meeting, it’s not as much of a stretch to say that these world leaders lack respect for President Trump.
It’s no secret that a large percentage of the population hasn’t taken Trump seriously since 2016, but to be lacking that kind of respect from other world leaders is on another level entirely. Some would argue that this means nothing- world leaders trash-talk each other all the time behind closed doors. But the fact that the leaders of these powerful countries were gathered together, fully aware of the press around them, still choosing to talk- quite obnoxiously in Trudeau’s case- about another leader, certainly indicates a lack of respect, no matter how much they deny it.
This incident also begs the question of how this news will affect prospective voters in the 2020 election: will it change or affirm the way they view their president? For die-hard Trump supporters, it will likely only make them more defensive of him, but for those on the fence, it might be just the push they need to conclude for themselves that, as Biden had put it, Trump is “incompetent and incapable of world leadership”. Perhaps it will have no effect on Trump’s prospects at all. Regardless of its long-term impact, there’s no doubt that the way these world leaders acted on Tuesday has sent a clear message about how other countries view the “leader of the free world”.