“There was rapturous narcissism,” said Kori Schake, a senior foreign and defense policy adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid. “It was rapturously self-regarding to think that the change from President Bush to Obama would, all by itself, improve our standing. … Obama did improve American standing in the world by getting elected, and that disappeared as the result of his policies.”

A foreign policy adviser to current GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Mitchell Reiss, said Obama’s foreign policy has suffered from a lack of any coherent organizing principle.

“Essentially, American foreign policy was personalized,” said Reiss, a State Department official in the Bush administration. “I think what we’re finding now is that you actually need policy in order to promote American interests and values around the world. … You can’t just simply rely on your own estimation of your own magical personality.”

While the U.S. is more popular in many places than it was when Bush left office, American standing never got a huge boost in some critical regions, such as the Mideast. And in two strategically pivotal nations, Pakistan and Egypt, sentiment toward the U.S. is more hostile than it was under Bush — an anger experts attribute to Obama’s aggressive campaign of drone strikes against terror suspects and tumult related to the Arab Spring democracy movement.