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World leaders wary of a Donald Trump presidency

May 26, 2016 at 6:40 PM EDT
Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican party has perturbed many observers in the U.S., but how is the international community reacting to the New York billionaire? Judy Woodruff talks to Geoff Dyer of the Financial Times, Joyce Karam of Al-Hayat and Alan Gomez of USA Today for more on how the GOP nominee is perceived around the globe
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JUDY WOODRUFF: We turn back to the race for the White House. But, tonight, we get some global insight into how Donald Trump’s rise to become the presumptive Republican Party nominee for president is seen around the world.

For that, we’re joined by Geoff Dyer. He’s U.S. diplomatic correspondent for The Financial Times. He has reported from London and used to be his paper’s Beijing bureau chief. Joyce Karam is Washington bureau chief for the Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat. And Alan Gomez focuses on Latin America and immigration issues, among other things, for USA Today.

And we welcome all three of you to the “NewsHour.” Thank you for being here.

ALAN GOMEZ, USA Today: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Geoff Dyer, let me start with you. As we said, you have reported from Europe. You are based in the U.S. now, but you have also reported from Asia.

But let’s start with Europe. We heard the president’s comments today. He said world leaders are rattled by what they’re hearing from Donald Trump. Donald Trump said it’s good that people are rattled. What are you seeing, what are you hearing from the Europeans?

GEOFF DYER, Financial Times: Well, we’re in quite an extraordinary position, where several European leaders have come out publicly criticizing one of the main candidates to be the president of the United States.

That is a very, very rare thing. That doesn’t happen very often. David Cameron, the British prime minister, has called Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims divisive and stupid. Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, has said he would vote for Hillary Clinton.

Even Angela Merkel, who has been a bit more diplomat, has gone out of her way to say how much she admires and likes working with Hillary Clinton. This is a very, very unusual situation. Politicians are not usually so critical of one of main candidates.

I think, for the Europeans, there are three main things. There is the ban on Muslim that Donald Trump has proposed, where a lot of European politicians would say this is stimulating, encouraging, giving a propaganda victory to ISIS.

There’s comments about NATO, where he said that potentially maybe perhaps the U.S. should pull out of NATO in some way. That has also obviously got the Europeans very worried, especially at a time when they’re looking anxiously at Vladimir Putin and Russia.

And then his comments that he would tear up the Paris climate change accord from last year, this is something that most European governments are fairly strongly supportive of. And it has got them very worried.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But at the same time, this administration, the Obama administration, hasn’t been universally loved by many of these leaders, has it?

GEOFF DYER: That’s fair to say as well, though Obama is still pretty popular in Europe, and he went to London recently and had quite a significant intervention into the British debate about whether to stay within the European Union.

He wouldn’t have been invited if he wasn’t still quite popular there. But he’s also said some things that are quite critical about NATO as well. He and a lot other American politicians have said that European governments should spend more money on NATO, that they need to increase their defense spending.

And that’s been part of Donald Trump’s message, but he’s gone one step further, and essentially raised the idea of maybe the U.S. should pull out of NATO in some way. And that’s really a much bigger step.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Joyce Karam, I know it’s hard to talk about the entire Middle East, because there are so many different countries and so many different sets of interests, but based on your reporting, how would you say leaders in that part of the world are looking at this election and looking at Donald Trump?

JOYCE KARAM, Al-Hayat: I mean, Judy, look, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, many of these leaders know Donald Trump. They have dealt with him. They have done business with him.

A Trump Hotel is to waiting to open in Doha next year. So they know him on the personal level. But I think the rhetoric that was heard from the campaign of Donald Trump, the ban on Muslims, reinstituting torture, this all is fueling a level of anti-Trump mood in the Middle East.

People went from being bewildered and perplexed by Donald Trump’s rise in American politics to being alarmed and terrified today. Is he really going to take the oil from Iraq? Is he really going to bomb ISIS families? Is he going to ban Muslims from entering the United States?

These are all valid questions that you hear them in Dubai and Beirut, wherever you go around the Middle East. So there is a sense of high concern that America that many Arabs love and admire has changed. And what to expect next, it’s a big open question.

JUDY WOODRUFF: He’s also talked, as we know, about undoing the Iran nuclear treaty. He has sounded, I think, for the most part pretty pro-Israel, wanting to support Israel’s defenses. How is that seen?

JOYCE KARAM: That also is not sinking well with Middle Easterners, with the Arab street.

For me, growing up in Lebanon, seeing how America is portrayed, Donald Trump is confirming the Arabs’ worst fears about the United States, about the U.S. policy. We hear conspiracies in the Middle East, that the U.S. is very pro-Israel, doesn’t care about the Palestinians, the U.S. is in the Middle East to take the oil, the U.S. is greedy and imperial.

Unfortunately, this is — today, it matches the rhetoric we hear from Donald Trump. Will Donald Trump change as a president? Perhaps, but, for now, that’s what Arabs are hearing and reacting to.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Alan Gomez, let’s talk about Latin America.

We have already heard reactions just now from Joyce and Geoff, from the other parts of the world, about his comments about Muslims. But what about that other border that he has talked so much about, about building the wall, about Mexicans and others from Central America coming across the border, being criminals, murderers, rapists, and so forth? How would you characterize the reactions to him south of the border?

ALAN GOMEZ, USA Today: Yes. The reactions have been pretty well-established since he originally made those comments way back last summer, when he was announcing for president.

That speech that he gave where he talked about drug dealers and rapists coming from Mexico into the U.S. pretty much shored up the opinion of Donald Trump throughout Latin America, because even though he was talking specifically about Mexico there, I think Latin Americans took it as a collective insult.

And so you had the Nicaraguan president talking about that this — Donald Trump’s rhetoric being racist and warlike. You had Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto likening Trump’s rise to that of Mussolini and Hitler. And that’s really permeated throughout all levels of Latin America, from government down to the people.

Now, I can tell you, it’s gotten to the point that it’s almost a running joke throughout the region. In Argentina recently, they have been airing TV ads where they’re showing clips of Donald Trump’s speeches talking about building that border wall, protecting the Americans from foreigners and interspersing that with images of Argentina’s soccer team and saying, hey, they’re on their way up here to play in Copa America, a soccer tournament in the U.S. next month, and saying, yes, they should be worried about us.

So, it’s gotten to the point that it’s almost a joke at this point how he’s viewed by Latin Americans.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I know. And it’s very tough to cover every part of the world in just a few minutes.

But, Geoff Dyer, let me come back to you and ask you about Asia. That’s where President Obama is right now. It’s where all this has risen. Of course, Donald Trump has spent a lot of time talking about the Chinese and how they’re taking the Americans for granted, getting the benefit of trade deals.

What’s the view of him on the Asian continent?

GEOFF DYER: I suspect the Chinese are a little bit ambivalent. Donald Trump has talked about starting a trade war and imposing tariffs on China.

He’s also made some comments about maybe stealing or taking some of these manmade islands in the South China Sea that China has been militarizing, that we will have got their attention. But, at the same time, the Chinese are very suspicious of Hillary Clinton. They see her as the person within the Obama administration when she was secretary of state in his first term who effectively encouraged the administration to take a much more aggressive approach towards China.

So they’re not big fans of Hillary Clinton either. I think, within Asia, the big reaction has been from the Japanese and the South Koreans, who are America’s key allies in the region. And Donald Trump has said that he might consider pulling troops out of both of those countries, Americans troops out of those countries, and also said that maybe it’s a good idea for them to have nuclear weapons.

Both of those ideas would completely overturn the basic understandings in those countries, how they manage their security, how they think about their future in the next couple of decades. So, these are not sort of minor things. These are huge deals for those countries.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In just the very short time we have left, Joyce Karam, views of Hillary Clinton, Middle East?

JOYCE KARAM: I think Hillary Clinton is a known quantity in the Middle East.

They know the name. The name recognition is big in the GCC countries and across the region. They know some of her advisers, people that she would bring if she’s to be president. With Donald Trump, you have the opposite problem.

We know from Secretary Clinton’s trips to the region that she held very long meetings. She would be well-received in Saudi and other places.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Alan Gomez, and Hillary Clinton, view of her in Latin America?

ALAN GOMEZ: It’s interesting.

Hispanics in the U.S. actually have a very good view of Hillary Clinton, because she has already said that she would continue President Obama’s programs and expand his programs to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Once you get into Latin America, things get a little bit trickier because of her tenure as secretary of state. In Honduras, a lot of people are still upset that she didn’t fight back hard enough against the 2009 coup there that has deposed its president.

In Haiti, there’s a lot of people upset over the way that the Clinton Foundation has handled reconstruction money following the earthquake there. And there’s all sorts of problems around the region about the militarization that the U.S. has pushed in the region to fight against the drug war.

So there is a lot of concern about her specifically. But, trust me, you ask anybody down there Hillary or Donald, and it’s a very clear choice.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it’s very unfair to ask all three of you to condense the views of the entire world in just a few minutes, but we do appreciate your giving us your insights.

Joyce Karam, Geoff Dyer, Alan Gomez, we thank you, all three.

GEOFF DYER: Thank you.

ALAN GOMEZ: Thank you.

JOYCE KARAM: Thank you.

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