On Wednesday, people on both sides of the Rio Grande furrowed their eyebrows in anticipation of Donald Trump's meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto. Would they get down to brass tacks over immigration reform? Would they have a throw-down debate over Trump's oft-discussed wall? Or, would nothing of substance actually be accomplished? Maybe the latter.
When interviewed at a news conference following the meeting, Trump said:
Who pays for the wall? We didn't discuss. We did discuss the wall. We didn't discuss payment of the wall. That'll be for a later date.
However, just hours later, Trump contradicted himself during a speech he made in Phoenix about immigration, where, according to CNBC, he said:
Mexico will pay for the wall. 100 percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for the wall.
While this immediate self-contradiction only serves to make Trump look less reliable, it's also what many Americans have pretty much come to expect from the Republican presidential nominee. For the first time in recent weeks, there was an event involving Trump where Trump didn't definitively come off as looking the worst. The meeting in Mexico made both parties look bad. Following the meeting, many Mexicans expressed anger that Nieto met with Trump in the first place. According to a report on POLITICO, former Mexican President Vicente Fox said the Nieto made "a historic mistake" by not being more firm about Mexico's unwillingness to build the wall, further stating that allowing Trump to visit and discuss these issues was a "stupid idea."
While many Mexicans are angry at Trump for his history of racist remarks and anti-immigration rhetoric, a large amount of current vitriol is aimed towards Nieto for allowing Trump to meet at all. According to a report in The New York Times back in May, Peña Nieto compared Trump's language to Hitler and Mussolini when interviewed by Mexican newspaper Excelsior.
As reported by the New York Times, the well-known historian Enrique Krauze lamented the ways in which meeting with Trump was lose-lose for Mexico, saying:
It isn't brave to meet in private with somebody who has insulted and denigrated [the Mexican people]. It isn't dignified to simply have a dialogue.
While Trump's contradictory statements and declarations of a "no amnesty" policy make him look unreliable and, arguably, inhumane, Mexicans and Americans already know this version of Trump. But more was expected from President Nieto, and this disappointment is strong, if not irreparable. Following his visit, Televisa news anchor Carlos Loret De Mola tweeted, "Trump can leave at ease now. The humiliation was complete."
This begs the ultimate question: did Trump look worse by immediately lying or did Nieto look worse by allowing Trump to visit at all? I think it may be the latter.