What is the deal with the Trump visit to Mexico?

Needless to say that I was startled to read in the news that Donald Trump would be going to Mexico today to meet with that nation’s president Enrique Pena Nieto, prior to his much publicized speech on immigration in Arizona later in the day. News reports say that the invitation came from Nieto and that Trump would be accompanied by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.

It is very strange for the head of another nation, especially one that is so close to the US geographically, economically, and culturally, to invite one of the presidential candidates so close to the election because it would be seen as meddling in US politics. Why would Pena Nieto want to invite especially the one who is headed for defeat and alienate the other candidate, the one who seems likely to win and with whom he will have to deal with in a few months? Why would he issue this invitation to someone whom he has previously compared to Hitler and Mussolini? Is it to try and get Trump to tone down his anti-Mexican rhetoric? Good luck with that!

The reaction in Mexico to Trump’s visit has been as one would expect, with Pena Nieto’s invitation being blasted from all sides as granting legitimacy to someone seen as hateful towards the nation and a buffoon to boot. What was Pena Nieto thinking, especially since his political standing is already low? Maybe he invited both major party candidates as a courtesy and was astounded when Trump actually accepted.

And why would Trump accept the invitation? Try as I might, I simply cannot see any upside for him from this visit other than to have a photo of him with a world leader and thus garnering newspaper headlines, which he does anyway. My first reaction was whether Trump had finally jumped the shark with this move. Some might argue that his entire campaign has been a succession of shark jumping, akin to the hurdles event in track, but this one I find simply astounding.

Trump keeps telling us that he is this tough super negotiator who will do much better than previous American negotiators in getting deals that are favorable to the US and this visit will raise hopes among his supporters that he will provide the first of those ‘wins’ over nations that he has promised will be the hallmark of his administration. But there is not a chance in hell that Pena Nieto will agree with Trump on building the wall at all, let alone agree to pay for it, the main issue that Trump is running on and is the major source of his support.

If Trump comes out of the meeting with nothing to show for it, as seems likely, will that dent his boast of being able to get what he wants in direct negotiations and thus disappoint his supporters? The meeting is supposedly private so there is nothing to prevent Trump from vaguely claiming after it that he has obtained some assurance of support from Pena Nieto for his proposals and that will put the Mexican president in the position of having betrayed his own country.

The real estate mogul is due to make a major speech about immigration policy in Arizona after his stop in Mexico, and he could spin his meeting with Peña Nieto in any number of ways. Trump’s advisers already were busy Wednesday morning spinning his visit to Mexico as the act of a “decisive” leader.

“Nobody can control what he’s going to say the next morning or what he’s going to tweet or how he’s going to tweet. That is his personality,” said a Latin American official familiar with the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

I can’t wait to see what emerges from this meeting. This election keeps getting stranger and stranger.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    there is not a chance in hell that Pena Nieto will agree with Trump on building the wall at all, let alone agree to pay for it

    There you go predicting Trump’s future again. Why do people persist in doing this? I’m reminded of July 6th last year, when you said here on FtB, and I quote:
    “There is no chance that Donald Trump will ever become the nominee of the Republican party for presiden…the party establishment will deliberately torpedo his candidacy if he becomes a real threat.”

    And yes, obviously Trump can say he’s got agreement in principle (or some other form of weasel words that sounds like more but means less) for Mexico to pay for the wall. That’s surely the entire reason he’s going. He likely won’t actually say “They’ve agreed to pay for the wall.” He never says anything that straightforwardly. He’ll bluster and repeat himself and not stop for breath for ages and at the end of it, if you’re minded to, you could believe he’s maybe got Nieto to say “well, OK” to something. And if you’re minded to, you could blow it off as bluster. If you’re one of the latter, you’re not his target audience anyway. But travelling and talking to world leaders looks presidential, and “looking presidential” is what the GOP have been trying to get him to settle down and do for weeks.

  2. applehead says

    I’d say Nieto won’t agree to build The Wall(TM) for America because, in contrast to Drumpf’s nomination, that’s physically impossible to accomplish.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Any secret deal along the lines of “I’ll support you if you promise to do X after you’re elected” would be highly illegal.

  4. Mano Singham says


    Though Reagan did supposedly make a deal with the Iranians before he took office.

  5. fentex says

    It is in both Trumps and Nieto’s interest for the meeting to be a disaster or spectacular success, so what’s to lose?

    Trump get’s to look hard and tough and Nieto strong and resilient if it blows up as a mighty unresolved confrontation insults all round. Win -- win.

    If there’s some kind of magnificent diplomatic success and accord (I can’t predict what shape that would take) again they both look good, win -- win.

    It’s only if it’s a bland exchange of the usual platitudes that it’s a loss for either, achieving nothing making both look pretty pointless. I’d guess they both have fire and brimstone on their minds.

    It’s possible in their eagerness they’ll screw it up and both come away looking like complete prats.

  6. Ichthyic says

    This is very likely just an attempt to get Trump to move more of his swag manufacturing to Mexico. Some of it is in Mexico, some in China.

    I’d bet it has nothing to do at all with american politics. seriously.

  7. KG says

    There you go predicting Trump’s future again. Why do people persist in doing this? -- sonofrojblake@2

    (Goes on to predict -- wrongly -- what Trump would say after the meeting.)

  8. sonofrojblake says

    @KG, 11:

    (Goes on to predict – wrongly – what Trump would say after the meeting.)

    Really? I did that? Do, please, tell me what you think I predicted Trump would say. Be specific.

  9. aashiq says

    Going to Mexico keeps Trump’s message fresh, keeps him on-air.

    It is I think a big mistake to focus on content….he is fundamentally a natural bullshitter, and as long as he has new material to spin, that’s what really matters. What he says and how consistent he is is immaterial. What matters is his brand.

    One big misstep by Clinton just before the election, and he will beat her as the “known” alternative. This is a very dangerous election.

  10. says

    On the side of Peña Nieto, the invitation is merely opportunistic. His political party has been losing ground recently and they need to be in the good graces of the US president, whomever it may be. Trump merely beat Clinton to the punch.

    On the side of Trump, I think it’s a combination of what Mano and Ichthyic are saying. Maybe get some manufacturing deals with Mexico and “look presidential” while he’s at it.

    Matt G @5

    I’m sorry, but you are just so horribly wrong about that. Hundreds of mexican contractors would jump at the opportunity, should the invitation arrive, regardless of Trumps untrustworthiness and regardless of the bad optics. That’s just the way it is.

  11. Mano Singham says

    A Lurker from mexico,

    Your perspective from within Mexico is valuable. I heard a Mexican commentator on NPR say that the reaction in Mexico to the way that Pena Nieto handled the visit has been brutal, with people claiming that he got upstaged and outplayed by Trump.

  12. sonofrojblake says

    he got upstaged and outplayed by Trump

    It’s hard to think of a world leader who wouldn’t get upstaged and outplayed by Trump. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin spring to mind, but other than that I can only picture any other head of government looking on bemused as Trump does his thing.

  13. drxray says

    Republican Party
    Who is worse: Richard Nixon, Bush or Donald Trump?
    Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PSYOP, Masters of War)
    have destroyed traditional family values (Legalization of drugs and pornography)
    Donald Trump Is Running for Richard Nixon’s Third Term
    From the ‘Silent Majority’ slogan to the secret plans to win the war, a prodigious enemies list, and a surreal commitment to ‘bring us together,’ it’s Tricky Dick all over again.

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