Donald Trump went down to Mexico, he was hoping that his wall would sell. He met with President Enrique Peña Nieto and afterward the two of them issued statements to the press. Trump then answered a couple of questions before departing and heading to Phoenix for his big immigration speech.
There he stood, podium beside podium with a world leader. Indeed, a world leader with whom Trump has been at odds, in a country that he has roundly attacked and said was not America’s friend. He stood beside him as they each gave measured statements. Trump talked about his deep affection for Mexico, for Mexican Americans, and for President Nieto. It was, in the small, diplomatic. For Trump, on the Trump grading curve, it was almost presidential.
It was not a win for President Nieto, who stirred up anger and resentment in a population where Trump is just shy of Satan in terms of likability. An “historic error” some said.
That perceived error was only compounded when his spokespeople gave Trump an out after he blatantly lied about the discussion of who would pay for the wall. They gave him cover. For politicians here in America, doing that has usually not worked out. He tends to stab you in the back anyway.
And that was Mexico. Onward, then, to Phoenix, where Trump gave his highly anticipated immigration policy speech. Would he cement the pivot? Or would he make a course correction? Or some third crazy thing?
All of the above.
The betrayal of Nieto was complete when Trump flaunted his wall plans, teased Mexico with them, put the wall on his shoulder and walked around the room daring Mexico to knock it down. After his muted, docile, lamb-like failure to stand by his wall when facing the Mexican president, he, like any chastened bully, laid his bravado on twice as thick when out of range. His “tangible, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall” as he effusively described it.
And what’s more, in response to his erstwhile diplomatic partner with whom he had so recently bragged he would be working closely and called a friend, he shoved the bill in Mexico’s face again.
“Mexico will pay for the wall,” he boasted to his cheering choir. “One hundred percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it. And they’re great people and great leaders, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”
Take that, guy who I said would be working with me closely to improve both our nations in the spirit of good will and cooperation.
He took his morning win, crumpled it up, set it on fire, and danced about on its grave, retroactively turning morning Trump into a jerk. You can watch the video here.
Trump told his audience that he was going to do something different last night, that he was going to deliver “a detailed policy address” rather than “a rally speech.” Among his many broken promises, this may have been the most quickly reversed, because right after saying that he launched into his usual diatribes, detailed descriptions of grisly crimes, applause lines, wisecracks, and general bombast. If that is what a “detailed policy address” is, then everyone else everywhere has been doing everything very wrong for a long time.
Trump did address policy, amid and between his many pauses for chants of “USA”, “LOCK HER UP”, or for the raucous laughter when he suggested deporting Hillary or asked “what the hell are [our leaders] doing?” He gave a ten point plan – or a list of ten ideas rather – covering what he would do about immigration. I don’t say “illegal’ immigration because he did not limit the topic to that distinction.
Note that those are not the same as the five points he laid out earlier in the day while in Mexico, which we outlined here.
Trump played diplomat in the morning, demagogue in the evening. In both settings, he probably won a few points with the audience he was targeting. In Mexico, his audience was the Establishment, the RNC, the donors. People who feared he couldn’t play nice.
In Arizona, it was his base. Angry. Stubborn. In no way interested in compromise. The “deport them all, let God sort them out” crowd. To neither did he speak completely plainly, and neither should trust that what they heard was true. There’s no basis for that trust.
In neither case did he score a home run. In fact, he was kind of a jerk, lying in the morning and strutting in the evening.
Trump’s immigration plans have been all over the map for months and depend entirely on the audience for his show. Yesterday was no different in that regard, it just happened faster. Usually you have to wait a day for a different Trump. On Wednesday, we had two Trumps on the same day. Both scored some points, but neither won the game or even, probably, put him in the lead.
He might go up a bit in the polls by gaining back some Republicans, but he’s not hurting Hillary and he is still amazingly stealing attention away from huge scandals that should be rocking her campaign to its core.
But that’s Trump. Both of him.
(Hey don’t get excited, Democrats. Hillary is just as bad.)