The great dealmaker–in–chief can’t even have a phone conversation with the leader of one of our biggest trading partners without blowing up. And it’s all over his egomaniacal border wall that’s never going to happen anyway.
The Washington Post reported this weekend that Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto held a 50–minute conversation last Tuesday to solidify Peña Nieto’s plans to visit the White House in March. But Trump reportedly “lost his temper” and refused the Mexican president’s request for him to acknowledge Mexico won’t pay for a wall, as Trump repeatedly has promised his red–meat–loving base.
On Friday, Trump told supporters the wall would indeed become a reality. Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Trump said, “Don’t worry, you’re getting the wall.” On Saturday, during a rambling phone–in interview with Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, Trump claimed Democrats had agreed to fund the wall, but he declined the deal because he wanted more money.
According to the Post, “The two presidents’ public posturing over the wall — Trump demands that Mexico pay for it; Peña Nieto insists that it will not — has harmed their personal relationship and jeopardized the alliance between their neighboring countries.”
This is the second time Peña Nieto has tried to visit the White House only to end up fighting with The Donald over the phone. A year ago, the Mexican president canceled a planned trip to Washington after Trump refused to budge on the wall issue. That episode, in January 2017, also involved a contemptuous phone call between the two leaders.
As former governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson pointed out on MSNBC, Mexico’s president historically has traveled to the U.S. in the first year of a new presidential administration here. That’s because our countries are so inherently linked.
In addition to sharing a 1,900–mile–border, Mexico is the U.S.’ third largest trading partner in goods, and second largest export market for goods as of 2016. More than 36 million people of Mexican descent lived in the U.S. in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. And new talks began on Sunday between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada to revise NAFTA ahead of upcoming congressional elections in the U.S. and presidential elections in Mexico.
But Trump can’t overlook, even for a minute, the reality that Mexico is not going to pay for a border wall. And Peña Nieto, whose ruling party is in serious danger of losing in July to leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who leads the polls, can’t afford to back down, considering almost everyone in Mexico hates Trump more than they hate Peña Nieto.
But Richardson has an idea: “Just don’t bring this up,” he said, referring to the wall. “We can talk about NAFTA, we can talk about [drug] cartels, immigration issues—just leave that off…Now, you have a huge flap.”
“The problem is that President Trump has painted himself, President Peña Nieto and the bilateral relationship into a corner,” former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan told the Post. “Even from the get-go, the idea of Mexico paying for the wall was never going to fly. [Trump’s] relationship with Mexico isn’t strategically driven. It’s not even business; it’s personal, driven by motivations and triggers, and that’s a huge problem. It could end up with the U.S. asking itself, ‘Who lost Mexico?’”
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who often trolls Trump on social media, tweeted that Trump “better believe that Mexico isn’t paying that #FuckingWall.”