The State Department told him not to go. Which is strange because when Obama was running for President he visited many of our allies, even had a giant rally in Germany. Donald Trump went anyway. The Republican nominee took a giant gamble by going down to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto. After all of the undiplomatic things Trump has said about Mexico, Nieto could have made the meeting very uncomfortable. But this trip to Mexico was probably the best thing Donald Trump has done since his convention speech.
Some people believe that Trump went to Mexico to curry favor with Latino voters … that’s nonsense. The Republican candidate knows that one speech cum photo op could never do that. No, Trump went to Mexico so he could convince independents and others on the fence that he can meet with other leaders without causing an international incident.
Both candidates were invited. Trump said yes right away. Hillary Clinton, probably thinking her Republican counterpart wouldn’t have the cojones to make the trip or would go and promptly insert both feet in his big mouth, was out-maneuvered.
Part of the Democrat’s strategy has been to paint Trump as the diplomatic bull in a china shop, to warn voters that he will insult all our allies and start a nuclear war if he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. In Mexico Donald Trump destroyed that image. he looked presidential and sounded diplomatic.
Let me emphasize: The meeting was not a Kumbaya moment. There were many points of disagreement. Nieto referred to some of Trump’s “misinterpretations and statements that have unfortunately hurt and affected Mexicans in the way he’s presented his candidacy.” Nieto also disputed Trump’s claim that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was beneficial only to Mexico and not the U.S. But the Mexican president conceded that the agreement was twenty-two years old and that perhaps it was time to modernize it. Ultimately, he concluded that Trump’s visit showed that the GOP candidate showed respect for America’s neighbor to the south, adding, “I was sure that his genuine interest was to build a relationship.”
Trump, for his part, praised Mexican-Americans, saying that they have made “great contribution” to out nation. He added, “I have a great feeling for Mexicans. They are amazing people.”
All told he covered five bullet points in his remarks:
- Ending illegal immigration
- Securing the border, with the right to build a physical barrier or wall
- Dismantling drug cartels and halting the flow of cash and weapons across the border
- Improving the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- Keeping manufacturing wealth in the American hemisphere
After the meeting Trump said there was no discussion about who would pay for the wall. But Nieto tweeted out:
Al inicio de la conversación con Donald Trump dejé claro que México no pagará por el muro.
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) August 31, 2016
Translation: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
The bottom line is that the visit was a big win for Trump, and it comes a time when Clinton is looking especially vulnerable. She can still head south of the border and without doubt will, but it won’t the same impact now.
The #NeverTrumpers and Clinton followers will say it’s not a turning point — that Trump will say something controversial and spoil the whole effect. To some extent he already has. Last night he delivered his much-anticipated on immigration, and ultimately he “opted to stay the course with his hardline positions and fiery rhetoric.”
Still, he came away from yesterday’s meeting with a photo op of him looking leaderly. All Hillary’s got is her boats and this lousy t-shirt.
Cross-posted at The Lid