Even behind China’s. This gets to something I wrote about in July, the extent to which America’s response to the pandemic isn’t just a human tragedy or an economic calamity but a national humiliation. And not a national humiliation like the Iraq war, where the U.S. failed to pull off something that no other world power could have accomplished. This is the crisis of the age and many other countries have handled it better than we have. We’re ninth-worst in the world in COVID deaths per capita among nations with a population of at least one million. We have 20 percent or so of the world’s recorded deaths from the virus despite having less than five percent of the world’s population. The leader of our country was recently exposed, on tape, as admitting to having downplayed the virus during a critical period early on.

What it means for America’s international prestige now that our incompetence has been exposed in such a glaring way is unclear. Maybe not a lot. Some western European countries have had outcomes comparable to ours, and we’ve been given a great gift by China’s relentlessly appalling behavior since the start of the crisis. They’re the rising power to which major nations logically would have turned once they realized that America is in late-stage decline, but no one wants to buddy up to the concentration-camp kommandants who are right now trying to grind Hong Kong under their heels. China’s repulsiveness may have preserved America’s status as the indispensable nation.

But clearly that indispensability is now of the “least bad option” variety, less so the “shining city on the hill” sort. The city on the hill’s too busy burying people and hosting anti-mask protests.

Sweden’s been following a de facto herd immunity strategy from the start and they’re wildly more enthusiastic about their performance relative to ours.

An obvious criticism of these numbers is that western countries lean left and therefore are more apt to judge a Trump-led U.S. skeptically no matter what. That’s fair, and it’s borne out in the numbers: Scroll through Pew’s graphs and you’ll find confidence in America’s president was much higher when the liberal Obama was in office. But America’s poor pandemic results have hurt Trump’s and the country’s image even relative to the first few years of his presidency:

Last year seven of the 11 countries that were polled at the time had majorities with a favorable view of the U.S. This year one does — South Korea, and South Korea (like Japan) has special reason to look favorably at the U.S. given how they’re threatened by their neighbors in China. Even so, South Korea and every other country there have seen double-digit declines in their views of the U.S. A different graph on the page at Pew’s site shows that views of Trump have declined as well. In South Korea, the share of the public that said they have confidence in him personally went from 46 percent to 17. He’s at 25 percent or worse in the “confidence” metric in every country polled.

Asked how much they trust different world leaders to do the right thing in global affairs, he actually trails Xi Jinping slight. Xi is at 19/78, Trump at 16/83.

Across the 13 countries polled, a median of 53 percent said that the U.S. had done a “very bad” job with the crisis while an additional 31-32 percent said we’ve done “somewhat bad.” What’s completely unknown to me, and what probably varies by country, is the degree to which views of the U.S. are being driven by the raw data and the degree to which they’re being driven by Trump’s pronouncements. Is it the death toll that’s startled people abroad? Because, as I say, there are countries with higher per capita death rates than us. Is it news coverage of Trump’s administration trying to game the America’s science bureaucracy to help him win election? Or is it footage of Trump saying repeatedly that the virus will just disappear one day and Americans throwing fits at Walmart when they’re politely asked to put a mask on? What precisely has convinced U.S. allies that we’re the worst?

Based on the raw numbers, I’m not sure the U.S. has handled the crisis worse than, say, the UK has. Whereas, based on videos like this, it’s hard to believe anyone on Earth has done as embarrassingly badly as we have.

In lieu of an exit question, read Bill Gates’s trenchant analysis of the many ways the U.S. screwed up — and is still screwing up — in trying to contain the pandemic. Naturally Gates himself is the target of endless conspiracy theories from anti-vaxxers, QAnoners, and kooks of various other stripes because of his work on pandemics before COVID-19 arrived. That’s what makes a bad national response into a true national humiliation — not just poor performance on all fronts but crankery oozing out of every pore.