Trump Time Capsule #42 (and Holding): Damage to the National Brand

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

An American who has lived and worked in Asia for several decades writes:

You might cast a future net in a future note to capture commentary from overseas business people (like me) who despise U.S. tax policy and, like the generals in the NYT story, generally lean conservative but who are horrified at the prospect of even the Trump candidacy.

I've lived overseas 23 years and I've never seen such universal concern over the daily damage he's doing to the national brand, which we all leverage consciously or not.  When the diplomats, bankers, manufacturers, sales execs, and tech guys are all on the same side of an argument, something is seriously out of balance.

Here we go!

I’m about to arrive in Cleveland (via the Kent State University airport, which is close to Team Atlantic’s hotel and is one of the Cleveland-area airports that is still operating under the convention-era Temporary Flight Restriction security rules). There I’ll mainly be reporting for an upcoming print-magazine story but also weighing in online as appropriate. I will plan to resume the Time Capsules when the conventions are over, and in the meantime making capsule-like observations passim in convention coverage. We are into new territory.


On the way this era in politics is being registered internationally, we’d be happy to get your accounts. Please write to

I  been overseas on a total of four U.S. presidential-election days. By far the most memorable was 2008, in Beijing. The Chinese public and officialdom was anything but pro-Obama. Chinese officials would generally vote GOP for the U.S. if given a chance. (Chairman Mao once said something like: Go for the Republicans; they’re predictable.) They’d liked the two Presidents Bush, despite observing the financial chaos at the end of GW Bush’s term. A continuation of GOP rule would hold fewer surprises. They’d heard of John McCain for years and barely had any idea of who Barack Obama was. And there was barely concealed incredulity that the United States would actually choose a non-white as its leader.

So they would have voted McCain-Palin, if they could. But as news of Obama’s win sunk in, even in China, over the following weeks there was some astonishment and then grudging respect for the idea that a democratic political system could will this kind of change in direction.

Voters in the Republican Party have obviously now willed a change in their direction. We’ll see if the country is doing so too. Let us know how it looks from afar.


Finally for now, a similar view-from-afar from an American living in Europe. This arrived after the attacks in Nice:

ISIS' goal in France is to bring the French Right to power, and precipitate a broad and violent response against the large French Muslim population, which will of course engender further radicalization in Muslim countries.

ISIS is also currently out to get Trump elected in the U.S., encouraged by his threat to put pressure on the U.S. Muslim community, and ban Muslim travel and immigration to the U.S. Tens of thousands of students come to the U.S. to attend university.

Of course, given Clinton's own neo-conservative proclivities, ISIS is probably now in a win-win situation regarding the U.S. Presidential elections.

Although it hardly takes a fortune teller to realize ISIS' goals, and the consequences for us if we indulge them in our response, I'd say there's a better then even chance we take the bait.