Late Tuesday night, news broke that Republican nominee Donald Trump, hours ahead of his big immigration speech in Arizona Wednesday evening, would make a detour to Mexico to speak with President Enrique Pena Nieto. The surprise visit seems to be a high-risk, no-reward gamble that has left many a pundit’s head scratching. Perhaps realizing the very likely chance that the unpopular Pena Nieto would use this as a political opportunity and humiliate Trump in front of the Mexican people, the real estate mogul ditched his traveling press pool, infuriating reporters.
Appearing on MSNBC to discuss the political implications Wednesday was Rick Wilson, a longtime GOP strategist. Wilson is also advising independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin and has been an ardent #NeverTrump conservative since Cheeto Jesus first announced his candidacy last year. Speaking to host Tamron Hall, Wilson ridiculed Trump over the visit, pointing out that there was nothing to gain.
From Media Matters‘ transcript of the broadcast:
“I see this meeting playing out as being a dumpster fire on top of a giant mountain of burning tires. There is very little condition that Donald Trump comes out of this where he doesn’t, first off, lie about what happened in the meeting. He is going to say, “The Mexicans agreed to everything I want. They’re building the wall — we’re building the wall. They’re paying for it.” And then the Mexicans are going to blow him up.
This is a guy who has — he’s been very accustomed to existing in this sort of Sean Hannity – Rush Limbaugh bubble for the last few months where no alternative reality impinges. But this is a real deal with an actual head of state of a foreign power. And he’s going to have to go there and he can’t just lie his way out of it. He can’t just say, “Oh, they’ve agreed to all my terms. The Mexicans are now writing a check for me at this very moment to build my magical wall.” And the problem is more broadly, he’s trying to, quote, unquote, “appeal to Hispanic voters.”
But he’s about to give a speech tonight that is pure Stephen Miller, that is going to be the same story that he’s told before where he’s talking about Mexicans as practically genetically criminals and they’re rapists and all this other stuff to appeal to his base. And I don’t think he’s going to get anywhere with Hispanic voters in this country by continuing to be so divisive and by having to live up to what his crowds desire versus what would be smart politically. He’s not a guy with any compassion in his soul so it’s going to fall very flat.”
As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall highlighted late Tuesday night shortly after the announcement was made, one has to wonder if Trump really is this stupid to take this gamble.
It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics.
I’m seeing comments tonight on TV either that Trump has little to lose (so great idea!) or that this is a wise move because it gives Trump a venue in which he can look presidential. President Obama tours the world; Hillary Clinton did so as Secretary of State. Now Trump gets a chance to do the same and even the score.
This strikes me as silly, a game effort to avoid saying that obvious: that this is really dumb.
Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.
And that’s just it — this is nothing but a really, really, really dumb idea. There’s almost no upside to be had. It is all because Trump is losing badly that his team is just looking for Hail Mary after Hail Mary as Election Day creeps closer. Per reports, this was all Steve Bannon’s idea. Perhaps the thought here is that maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that Pena Nieto will bow down to Trump, take a photo with their hands raised and ink a check for The Wall. Boom. Election sealed.
Also, reiterating what Wilson stated, Trump currently resides in the Hannity/Limbaugh/Ingraham/O’Reilly bubble, so he knows they will still spin this as a psotive for him. He’ll pretend like he dominated the Mexican prez and lie about what was said in the meeting, despite the fact that the truth will almost immediately come out. He’s now in the mindset that there are ‘undercover’ Trump voters who all listen to right-wing media but lie to pollsters when asked who they’ll vote for.
But, the fact is, there is no gain here. This won’t shift the tide, just like his craven Louisiana flood trip didn’t, and just like his patronzingly offensive attempts to appeal to black voters hasn’t. The die is cast.
Below is video of Wilson’s segment, courtesy of Media Matters: