Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Live Briefing: Uproar Over Donald Trump’s Trip to Mexico


Donald J. Trump held a campaign rally in Everett, Wash., on Tuesday night.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

Donald J. Trump heads to Mexico on Wednesday for what is expected to be the most frenzied — and perhaps the most important — day of his campaign. Mr. Trump will visit Mexico City for a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nietowho is being criticized by many Mexicans for his willingess to meet with Mr. Trump, who started the day by feuding with a former Mexican president, Vicente Fox, on Twitter. Mr. Trump then will fly to Arizona to deliver a speech on immigration.

Trump and Fox go head-to-head on Twitter

Mr. Trump pre-empted his meeting with one president of Mexico by feuding with another, bickering on Twitter with Mr. Fox, the former head of state, after Mr. Fox criticized him in scathing language on television.
“Former President Vicente Fox, who is railing against my visit to Mexico today, also invited me when he apologized for using the ‘f bomb,’” Mr. Trump wrote Wednesday morning, alluding to a profane remark Mr. Fox made in February about Mr. Trump’s proposed border wall.
Mr. Fox, a voluble presence on Twitter in his own right, retorted that he had urged Mr. Trump to visit Mexico to apologize for disrespecting the country. “Stop lying!” Mr. Fox shot back. “Mexico is not yours to play with, show some respect.”
Mr. Fox has been a persistent critic of Mr. Trump during the 2016 campaign, and his sharp rebukes of Mr. Trump and the current Mexican president, Mr. Peña Nieto, may cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s visit on Wednesday. Already, Mr. Fox has plainly tested the Republican nominee’s ability to stay on message and maintain a statesmanlike pose on a brief foreign trip.


Vicente Fox, the former Mexican president, answered questions during a news conference in 2013.CreditElaine Thompson/Associated Press

Peña Nieto faces criticism from the public

There’s a sense of betrayal among Mexicans today, a feeling that their president sold them out to the worst possible person. Historians, academics and analysts have spoken out against Mr. Trump, who they characterize as xenophobic.
By Wednesday morning, those same individuals, and many, many more, were re-directing their Trump-focused anger toward Mr. Peña Nieto. Fearful the Republican nominee will use their president, and by extension their country, as a pawn in his political efforts, they also are worried that their own president could provide boost a man they revile in the polls.
But there is a more quiet group of analysts who support Mr. Pena Nieto’s decision, however out of sync it is with public sentiment.

”He is opening a channel of communications with the person who might become the president of the United States,” said RafaelFernández de Castro, a professor at Syracuse University and former foreign policy adviser to president Felipe Calderon. “In that sense, you cannot criticize him – he is playing it safe for the national security of Mexico.” “In foreign policy, it is not always about public opinion,” he added. “It is about securing the country.”
There was a sense among some Mexicans, however, that Mr. Peña Nieto had invited the candidates in an effort to cut deals that would somehow salvage the rest of his term.
Here are some of the questions we will be looking to answer:

Does the trip signal a policy shift, or is it merely for publicity?

Mr. Trump’s gift for showmanship has helped him define the terms of the 2016 election, and a surprise visit to Mexico is precisely the kind of spectacle on which he has thrived. But the symbolism-laden trip comes at a moment of real political peril, as Mr. Trump seeks to tiptoe away from some of his most hotly debated proposals on immigration, which he outlined during the Republican primaries.
In recent weeks, Mr. Trump has said he may soften his hard-line approach to illegal immigration and repeatedly stressed that he wants to have a “humane” policy. But he has not renounced his pledge to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States, and his aides have struggled to articulate his current position.
Campaign officials have promised that his speech in Arizona on Wednesday night would bring some clarity. But whether Mr. Trump is poised to announce a meaningful change in his views or is merely seeking to distract from his current political travails with a series of extravagant gestures remains to be seen.

Can Trump restrain himself on foreign soil?

Mr. Trump has never before made a trip of this political importance or met with a foreign head of state as a candidate. His only previous foreign trip since announcing his presidential bid was to visit his golf course in Scotland. On that excursion, Mr. Trump did not meet with any senior government leaders, and he stumbled badly by hailing the plunging value of the British pound as helpful to his business.
And there is no country riskier for Mr. Trump to visit than Mexico, where loose talk of a border wall or a trade war could have disastrous consequences. Mr. Trump’s campaign has promoted his recent campaign activities as evidence of new seriousness: Visiting Mexico may be the ultimate measure of just how disciplined Mr. Trump can really be.

Will Peña Nieto challenge his guest?

The Mexican president, who is struggling with low approval ratings and a string of scandals, has spoken out sharply against Mr. Trump in the past. He said in a television interview last month that there was “no way” Mexico would pay for a border wall, as Mr. Trump has demanded. Earlier, Mr. Peña Nieto compared Mr. Trump’s campaign to the rise of Hitler.
So Mr. Peña Nieto will face considerable pressure to protest Mr. Trump’s oratory and policies face to face. Vicente Fox, the former Mexican president, said on CNN on Wednesday that his successor would be perceived as a traitor if he did not go after Mr. Trump.
And while Mr. Trump’s core supporters are unlikely to be put off by criticism from the president of Mexico, any perceived provocation from Mr. Peña Nieto would test Mr. Trump’s ability to carry off his visit with dignity.


President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico during a July news conference at the White House with President Obama. CreditErik S. Lesser/European Pressphoto Agency

How does Trump manage the split screen and his most demanding day as a candidate?

In the space of a few hours, Mr. Trump will visit with Mexico’s head of state, then deliver a speech in Arizona, where border hawks like Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Gov. Jan Brewer rank among his top supporters. The trip will take him from the country he has antagonized most during the 2016 campaign, to a state where Republican primary voters rewarded Mr. Trump handsomely for his hostility to Mexico.
For any politician, navigating the contrast between these events and audiences would be challenging. But it may be an even more delicate task for Mr. Trump, with his penchant for improvisation and playing to the gallery. Can he avoid a jarring contrast between images of a sober meeting in Mexico City, and raucous build-the-wall chants in Arizona?

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