Did The Mexican President Actually Want Donald Trump To Visit??
It's like all of your worst family Thanksgivings rolled into one. Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto invited Donald Trump to come and meet with him Wednesday, in spite of the lengthy history each man has of insulting the other. Trump's criticisms of the Mexican government and of the Mexicans who immigrate to the United States are infamous. President Peña Nieto, for his part, has compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini. On the surface, their decision to meet doesn't seem to make much sense. On a deeper level, though... no, it still doesn't make any sense.
Peña Nieto is trapped in one of the worst moments of his career. His favorability ratings have been declining for some time, and his current approval rating of 23 percent, according to the newspaper Reforma, is the lowest for any Mexican president since the paper began conducting polls. He is likely anxious to rebuild his image in the wake of allegations of plagiarizing his law school thesis which plagued him earlier this summer. According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Peña Nieto said there were "style errors" in the thesis, but that the president had completed his academic requirements for his degree.
For Peña Nieto, associating himself with Trump can only make matters worse. In Mexico, Trump has a staggeringly low approval rating of just 2 percent. One glance at Trump's Twitter account, and it's easy to imagine why.
So seriously, what could Peña Nieto expect to get out of this meeting? It's certainly possible that he extended the offer as an empty gesture without expecting Trump to devote precious campaign time to it. (He reportedly invited Hillary Clinton as well.) What can he hope to gain from this conversation?
If he wanted to appear tough by rebuking Trump, or by rejecting his claims that Mexico can be made to pay for a massive border wall, then he could certainly do so without bringing Trump to Mexico City. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has made it a hobby to attack Trump from afar, and him apologizing in advance for Trump's visit Wednesday was no exception. Nor does Trump have any incentive to compromise with Peña Nieto, particularly at a time when his campaign has been criticized for apparently wavering on immigration policy, and on the day of a major immigration speech.
Conversely, if Peña Nieto seeks to meet with Trump to offer any compromise on the proposed border wall, he would likely be met with indignation or even outrage from his own constituents. Former president Fox told CNN, "If [Peña Nieto] is perceived as going soft on Trump, it will hurt him greatly. He will be considered a traitor."
It's a no-win situation, particularly for Peña Nieto. It's possible, then, that Trump really did call a bluff — much like many pro-Brexit voters did with David Cameron in May — and that the Mexican president never intended to have the meeting at all. Could he have accidentally set up what has the potential to be a disastrous meeting? NBC reports that Peña Nieto is "known for his gaffes" and has been "ridiculed" by the press for failing to remember names, dates, and other information in interviews. An accidental Trump meeting would be his latest misstep, but not his first.
It will certainly be interesting to see what each politician reports from the meeting, and whether either will be able to convince voters that he came out on top.