Why are Trump’s competitors so confident they can brush him aside? Probably they can see that he doesn’t have much grasp of world affairs, or a ton of interest. Maybe they imagine he’s too preoccupied with controversy back home to get himself into any global standoffs.
But the better explanation is that other world leaders can sense something essential about Trump. The one thing they share is probably an innate ability to size people up. You don’t get to the top of any political system, large or small, without a shrewd eye for what drives human behavior.
And what they see in Trump is insecurity. The carrying on about his ratings and poll numbers, the impulsive tweets on a sleepless night, the childlike boasts and pleading diatribes — all of it betrays a need to be loved, rather than feared.
They look at how Trump sucks up to a miniature authoritarian like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte (who Trump gushed was doing “an unbelievably good job” during an embarrassing phone call in May), and they see a man who admires steel in others precisely because he doesn’t possess it himself.