Despite high hopes from various members of the pundit class that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto last week would be some kind of game-changer, Trump did something that surprised nobody. He said one thing to one audience, and the near opposite to another. In a press conference with the Mexican president following the meeting last Wednesday, Trump stated, "We didn't discuss payment of the wall." Mere hours later, Trump held a rally in Phoenix, where he bragged that Mexico would "100 percent" pay for his beloved wall. Nieto subsequently tweeted that he told Trump during their meeting Mexico would not pay for the wall. Cue the combination of confusion and frustration that we've become used to with Trump.
Long gone are the heady days of the one-way pivot, when we foolishly thought that Trump might “become more presidential” and stay that way. We’re even beyond the days of the three-ring-circus Trump campaign, with gaffe upon gaffe befalling the stripped-down organization. This is the era of Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. The mistakes are behind us — everything from here on out is intentional.
Or at least, we need to be viewing it as such. There’s no more time left to figure things out, shake things up, or “let Trump be Trump.” Which is why on Wednesday, following Trump’s visit south of the border, none of the flabbergast about Trump’s rapid about-face had any of the incredulity it might have earlier in the campaign. The sad thing is that we’ve all become inured to it, to the point where I (and others) believe that Trump doesn’t pay a real political price for saying one thing at noon and another thing at night.
Sure, I suppose that the prospect that Trump might lose the presidency can be seen as a political price, though the latest numbers suggest that's not necessarily likely. A CNN/ORC poll published Tuesday found Trump leading Clinton by two points. What's especially frustrating is that Donald “I regret it” Trump is still that close to the presidency without having once had to sincerely apologize, backtrack, or express humility. Whether he attains the White House or not, the man who said he's never felt compelled to ask God for forgiveness finds himself with an unblemished record — at least, in his own mind.
Regardless of what Trump goes on to do next, whether it’s lead the free world (FiveThirtyEight’s pegged it at a 32.5 percent of happening at the time of publication) or to run a Trump TV network with campaign CEO Steve Bannon, he’ll have the pleasure of having never been wrong — at least, according to himself. He'll face that future without ever having apologized, or even strongly clarifying his many, many equivocations. And that reminds us that regardless of how Trump may or may not flip-flop on immigration — or any other issue— he is the same exact Trump he's been this whole campaign.
Image: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel