Rather than resolve differences, a Wednesday meeting between reality show star-turned-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the president of Mexico seems to have created a feud between them.
While most similar incidents in modern history have ended up as a mere flurry of boring diplomatic notes, this imbroglio is playing out on social media, which gives us a unique opportunity to judge how Trump would handle international relations as president of the United States.
Turns out that sparks still don’t exactly fly this way, at least not yet.
After their private meeting, Trump told a press conference that there had been no discussion of payment plans for border walls. But President Peña Nieto’s staff contradicted Trump’s version of events afterwards, saying the politician had told the candidate in no uncertain terms that Mexico is not paying for his wall.
Yesterday morning, after delivering an anti-immigration hate speech, Trump was tweeting his delusional sales pitch once again.
Mexico will pay for the wall!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2016
President Peña Nieto also has a Twitter account, however, and he posted a response later in the day.
Repito lo que le dije personalmente, Sr. Trump: México jamás pagaría por un muro. https://t.co/IJNVe0XepY
— Enrique Peña Nieto (@EPN) September 1, 2016
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: “I repeat what I told him in person: Mr. Trump, Mexico will never pay for the wall.” And: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump, I made it clear that Mexico would not pay for the wall.”
Deeply unpopular in his own country, President Peña Nieto seems to have invited Trump to Mexico City in an effort to shore up his domestic support. But neither man has precisely gotten what they wanted out of the meeting.
President Enrique Peña Nieto was immediately criticized for making the invitation in the first place, and reviews of his performance — standing mute while Trump once again vowed to build a wall — have been dismal.
“Trump uses EPN,” the Mexico City daily Reforma said, using the president’s initials. El Universal ran a softer headline: “After the visit, Peña sees the threat in Trump.”
[…] Peña Nieto “had the last word,” Arturo Franco, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, said Thursday. “There was every opportunity to correct Trump.”
Franco said the meeting made the GOP candidate appear presidential, which has implications beyond Mexico. “A single decision in Mexico has so many potentially negative repercussions, not only in Mexico, but internationally as well,” he said.
Jesús Silva-Herzog, a Mexican academic, was more blunt, calling the encounter the “biggest stupidity in the history of the Mexican presidency.”
Trump had an opportunity to be demanding in Mexico, a country where he is almost uniformly unpopular, but he blinked. Weak! Low-energy!
Then he came home and swaggered his way through an immigration ‘policy’ speech, ranting for an hour against an imaginary army of Mexican-born criminals raping and pillaging America like Visigoths, only to admit briefly at the end that he won’t actually be able to deport all eleven million undocumented people now in the United States. Position softened!
The harsh tone of Trump’s oratory led Latino conservatives connected to his campaign to quit outright or question their continued involvement, further cutting into his thin support among Hispanic voters.
At this point, however, Peña Nieto is even less likely to be the president of Mexico after 2018 than Trump is likely to win in November.
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