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.