This was inevitable. Donald Trump’s spontaneous adventurism in Mexico and Enrique Peña Nieto’s ill-advised invitation combined to create an upside that amounted to little more than a photo-op. With unclear objectives and hazy logic in the pocket of both leaders, the biggest potential pitfalls were always sabotage, ineptitude, and inexperience from one side or the other, presumably Trump, that would make something that should have been a minor detail a huge deal, and somehow representative of everything. Enter Donald Trump’s hypothetical wall.
Trump, during the statement-reading portion of the trip, said that he and Peña Nieto discussed the wall, but that who was going to pay for the wall was not discussed. “Who pays for the wall? We didn’t discuss,” Trump said during the news conference following their meeting. “We did discuss the wall. We didn’t discuss payment of the wall. That’ll be for a later date.” That restraint seems surprisingly diplomatic of Trump considering how he loves to linger, in humiliating fashion, on how Mexico will definitely pay for the wall somehow, someway. If you go along with the conceit that this was an actual political summit, it somehow would make sense and is strange at the same time that the topic wouldn’t be broached by Trump. It makes sense because it’s embarrassingly naïve to think much less say, like promising you can convince ISIS to convert to Hinduism if you’re elected, and it’s strange because it shows either a lack of political backbone on the part of Trump or that he’s grown elementary diplomatic skills.
The failure to talk about the wall became the most interesting part of what amounted to not much more than a grandiose press conference. That is, until Pena Nieto tweeted afterwards: “At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall.”
Somebody’s lying! And that’s now the story, perhaps the only one that will linger from this meeting. Sabotage, ineptitude, or inexperience! Or perhaps all three.