Donald Trump is considering jetting to Mexico City on Wednesday for a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, just hours before he delivers a high-stakes speech in Arizona to clarify his views on immigration policy, according to people in the United States and Mexico familiar with the discussions.I heard about this on Rachel Maddow's show before I read the Post story, and I tried to figure out what the hell the Trump people are thinking. Do they want there to be threatening demonstrations in Mexico, so Trump can cancel his trip and say he told us the place is full of thugs who hate us? Does he want to go there and be confronted by angry mobs, just to show how brave he is? (No way. He's not brave.) What's the plan?
Well, according to Costa and De Young, the plan -- which they say came from the rabble-rousing Steve Bannon, not from one of the supposed voices of reason in the Trump inner circle -- is for Trump to look statesmanlike:
Bannon ... made the case ... that Trump must underscore his populist immigration views in the final weeks of the general-election campaign, perhaps with an audacious gesture.And I think that really is it. At LifeZette -- the online journal of Trump insider and immigration hardliner Laura Ingraham -- we read this:
Peña Nieto’s invitation was brought up, and Bannon said it offered Trump an opening to make headlines and showcase himself as a statesman who could deal directly with Mexico.
Trump was intrigued by Bannon’s proposal and agreed....
For Trump ... it would reaffirm his willingness to sit down at the table with everyone -- even those who have spoken ill of him or America. A sit down with the Mexican president would highlight his calling card as a dealmaker and a serious negotiator genuinely interested in building a strong, yet equitable, relationship with America’s neighbor to the south.But Trump obviously isn't going to come away with an agreement that Mexico will pay for the wall. The meeting might be civil, but, as Univision's Jorge Ramos notes, Peña Nieto has to show some backbone, for domestic political reasons:
Mexican President @epn is 1 of the most unpopular in history. He's desperate. However he risks huge indignation if he doesn't confront Trump— JORGE RAMOS (@jorgeramosnews) August 31, 2016
What's the thinking here? That Trump's hardline voter base will stick with him even as he appears to be "softening" again, while suburban GOP moderates will just swoon and return to the fold based on a brief moment of insta-diplomacy? (Costa and De Young say that Trump plans to squeeze this meeting in between some California fundraisers in the morning and an Arizona speech on immigration in the evening, so there's not going to be time for a hell of a lot of substance.)
Or does Trump want Peña Nieto to be rude to him? Yes, Peña Nieto extended an invitation to Trump a couple of weeks ago, but he compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini back in March. Is that the plan?
I don't think so. I think there's a bizarre belief in Trump World that he can be sold as a statesman. That LifeZette story goes on to say:
Trump’s outreach to African-American voters in the nation’s crumbling inner cities is an already powerful testament to the candidate’s willingness to try to change minds against steep odds. A Peña Nieto summit would further cast Trump as a leader willing to face headwinds to bring about greater unity.They really think we're going to buy this. They think we'll believe that Trump the trash talker is now a mature, thoughtful man we'd be proud to have as president.
Then again, the mainstream media -- the Chuck Todds and Chris Cillizzas -- will probably swallow this BS. So maybe it's not so crazy.