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The U.S. flag and Chinese flags fly at a welcoming ceremony between Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Trump in Beijing last November. Photo: Thomas Peter, Pool / Getty Images

Unveiling the annual Edelman Trust Barometer in conjunction with tomorrow's opening of Davos, president and CEO Richard Edelman told Axios that the U.S. has fallen to "an Iraq war level of trust" around the world.

"It’s the first time we've seen such a trust drop delinked from either a major event, or economic chaos."

Among the key takeaways from my interview with Edelman about his firm's study, which found the U.S. has suffered a "trust crash," internally and externally:

  • “As to brand USA” — how the rest of the world sees the U.S. — “you can see deterioration … over the last four or five years. It doesn't begin with Trump, but it certainly was accelerated.”
  • "So if you're an American company, you now have a trust weight around your ankles.”
  • The U.S. score is "better than China or India [and other] developing countries. But among the developed countries, we're at the low end.”
  • On the massive drop in trust in government within the U.S., for so-called normal times: “This not tied to a specific catastrophic event like 9/11 or Fukushima [nuclear disaster] in Japan. It's also not tied to an economic downturn like the Great Recession.”
  • China, meanwhile, in the opposite direction: “The government is the highest trusted institution, … whereas in the United States, it's the lowest trusted institution.”
  • “It has to do with a sense of confidence and belief in direction and a clear plan and following through, as opposed to freelancing.”

Be smart: These results show the limits of "America first" bravado, both internally and externally. With such a strong economy, the U.S. could be in a confident position in these times thanks to tectonic disruption.

  • Instead, U.S. leaders have a huge repair job ahead and no obvious plans to tackle it.

Go deeper, both by Axios' Sara Fischer ... "Red alert: America suffers record drop in trust; China rises" ... "The institutions Americans and Chinese call 'broken.'"

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Go deeper

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Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

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Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

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The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.