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Newt Gingrich imagines the 2012 presidential debates will be like high school prom -- the kind where pig's blood is dumped on the prom queen: if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, "Obama's going to laugh at him," Gingrich told ABC News this month. Right one cue, the pro-Gingrich superPAC Winning Our Future, which is officially not coordinating with Gingrich, released an animated ad Wednesday imagining the same thing, with a small twist. As cartoon Obama destroys a stammering cartoon Romney, the unseen audience laughs derisively. But Gingrich isn't the only Republican to sound a bit like the scary mother in the classic horror film Carrie, whose warning "They're all gonna laugh at you" echoes in the heroine's head just after she's doused with pig's blood at prom (and just before she burns alive her cruel classmates with her telekinetic firestarter powers). The threat of public humiliation has become a bit of a theme among Republicans this election.

Michele Bachmann seemed fixated at the idea of the world laughing at America in November, when she told Iowans"

"That’s the problem today in foreign policy: You want the other nations to fear us... They don’t fear us today. They laugh at us. This is serious. The United States is being mocked at and laughed at. We’re the military super power of the world and we’re being mocked at and laughed at and being disrespected?"

When, after a long fight with Obama, House Republicans passed a two-month extension of the payroll tax holiday in December, Florida Rep. Allen West complained, "You cannot do tax policy every two months. And I think all across the world, people are laughing at us right now."

But no one is more fixated on the idea of the world laughing at us than Donald Trump, who's fake candidacy marked the first Not Mitt Romney surge in polls. In April, Trump explained that he was (fake) running for president because "The world is laughing at us." On the potential government shutdown that month, Trump said a compromise was inevitable, "but it's pretty sad because the whole world is looking at us and laughing at us." Ahead of a state dinner for China, Trump said, "China is not our friend. I mean, this is a group of leaders that are just taking advantage of our leaders. They're smarter; they're sharper. And they're laughing at us all the way to the bank." Even after Trump dropped out of the race he was never sincerely in, he held on to this talking point. The Chinese "are laughing at us. They think we are so stupid they can’t believe it," he told the ladies of The View in mid-December. A couple weeks later, he told Fox's Neil Cavuto, "We have an administration that is not respected by China. They’re laughing at us. They tell me they can’t believe what they are getting away with."

Bachmann, Cain, and Trump so their campaigns for president go down in flames after a fusillade of jokes on late-night shows, so perhaps they know best the dangers of being laughed at.  But it's time for them to learn what the rest of us learned in high school: every other country is too busy kicking itself for the dumb thing it just said to notice the dumb thing we just said, okay?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.