The Slatest

Donald Trump’s Trip to Mexico: What Was That?

Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto prepare to deliver a joint press conference in Mexico City on August 31, 2016.

Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump on Wednesday took a detour to Mexico City, where he tried to play the part of president. The GOP nominee, who has always been an uneasy fit for that role, came off as slightly awkward, relatively sedate, and not totally unhinged during the few moments he appeared in public during the extremely quick trip.

Standing on stage with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto after their brief meeting, Trump described the encounter between the two men as a “great honor” and sang the praises of Mexican-Americans, albeit in his own Trumpian way. “I happen to have a tremendous feeling for Mexican-Americans, not only in terms of friendships but in terms of the tremendous numbers that I employ in the United States—and they are amazing people, amazing people.” Those comments likely came as a surprise to both Nieto, who Trump has indirectly accused of sending criminals to the United States, and those Mexican-Americans who the celebrity businessman has vilified from the very start of his campaign.

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In the end, though, Trump got the photo-op he travelled so far for (although one without an American flag in the background). And he also continued his uneasy effort to soften his tone, albeit not his actual policies, in an attempt to court white college-educated Republicans back home by appearing slightly less explicitly xenophobic.

Reading from prepared remarks, Trump ticked off a list of five things that he described as shared goals between the U.S. and Mexican governments: “ending illegal immigration,” “having a secure border,” “dismantling drug cartels,” “improving NAFTA,” and “keep[ing] manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere.” True to form, Trump never got into specifics about how he proposes to achieve any of those vague objectives. By his own account, Trump didn’t even bring along the details to his hour-or-so sit-down with the Mexican president, who had extended invitations to both Trump and Hillary Clinton but reportedly never expected the GOP nominee to take him up on the offer.

“We did discuss the wall,” Trump said in response to one of a handful of questions reporters were allowed to ask at the press event. “We did not discuss payment of the wall, that’ll be for a later date.”

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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