Becoming the target of international mockery

Even before the debt-ceiling agreement was approved, the United States’ reputation, which had been improving in recent years, was suffering a major, self-inflicted blow. The Republican-imposed breakdown of our political process “eroded America’s already diminishing aura” among “foreign leaders and in global markets.”

Apparently, having a large group of American officials willing to gamble our economy, our reputation, and our credibility, as part of an ideological game, suggested to the world that the trustworthiness of the United States is a thing of the past.

The deal, of course, was adopted yesterday, but international mockery continues. Thanks to unhinged Republican antics, Joshua Keating reports that the world has been laughing at us.

Chinese state-sponsored media is characterizing the United States as “an unruly, wayward child.” Russian media is saying its national problems are bad, but at least they’re not Americans. In India, people are being told that the United States “cannot be counted on when the tough decisions are being made.” A British newspaper explained, “[A]s long as a generation of Republican politicians feel entitled to hold a gun to the head of the credit of America to secure their political ends — disaster will never be far away.”

Keating also noted, “You know you’re in trouble when even the losers start picking on you.”

Piling on, the debt-ridden economies of Europe — the so-called “PIGS” — have responded to the United States’ near failure to get its fiscal house in order. The Greek broadsheet Ekathimerini writes that the United States today “displays all the signs of decadence that condemned all previous superpowers: Stability and prosperity allowed small groups to gather disproportionate power, and they then forced the state to serve their interests at the expense of those of society as a whole.” Much like Greece, the editors write, the United States is now “paying the price of complacency.”

The Irish may still love Barack Obama but Lara Marlowe, Washington correspondent for the Irish Times, writes that despite the deal, “the damage to Obama’s reputation and to faith in the ability of the US to lead a global economic recovery may be irreparable”. Bemoaning the U.S. president’s failure to stand-up to the Tea Party, Marlowe writes that “as the country surveyed the smouldering detritus of the debt crisis yesterday, the Tea Party stood triumphant in the ashes.”

In Spain, where recent street protests over high unemployment recently brought the government to a standstill, El País argues that, “The United States is now in the same basic trap as the Old Continent,” forced to enact harsh austerity measures in order to reduce the deficit, but hampering economic growth in the process. The deal “transmits the message that the policies proposed by the radical core of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, will be an obstacle for crisis management in Washington,” the editors conclude.

There’s some irony to this. The right has been obsessed for some time with the notion of “American exceptionalism,” and yet, these same conservatives have been eager to make the United States an international laughingstock.

As we talked about the other day, I don’t know if Republican lawmakers are aware of any of this. Worse, I also don’t know if they care. But American leadership on the global stage rests on certain pillars that took generations to build and strengthen — credibility, reliability, stability, the integrity of our institutions, sound judgment. The Republican Party severely undermined these pillars in the Bush era, most notably in areas of foreign policy and the use of military force. The Republican Party has now severely undermined them again.

The world has been watching and thanks to GOP madness, the sanity of the world’s greatest superpower is very much in doubt.

In politics, disputes come and go. Some missteps, however, are difficult to forgive.