Molly O’Toole reports on the baffling Trump visit to Mexico:
It’s that the two are among the most unpopular politicians in their respective countries, whose interests are diametrically opposed, with virtually no political upside to be gained from the private meeting at the Mexican presidential palace. In other words, Trump’s trip will almost certainly backfire on both.
It’s not clear what presidential candidates hope to gain from trips like these. In theory, they make the candidate appear “presidential” by putting him in meetings with foreign officials and they provide him with foreign policy “experience” of a sort that makes him seem more credible to the folks back home. In practice, these visits almost always come back to haunt the candidates in one way or another, and all they do is waste time and resources that might be better used elsewhere. Obama is probably the only presidential candidate in recent memory to benefit at all from an overseas trip during the campaign, and it is doubtful that it gained him very much. Four years ago, Romney went on a foreign trip during the presidential campaign, and it turned out to be a mostly humiliating experience for him. He went to Britain prior to the London Olympics and criticized their preparations, prompting rebukes from prominent British politicians and leading British media to dub his time there as a “Romneyshambles” (a play on omnishambles). The rest of his trip didn’t go much better, and in the end the trip made him seem like more of a foreign policy incompetent than he did before he went.
Trump’s visit to Mexico makes even less sense than Romney’s overseas trip did. At least Romney scheduled his trip with the idea that he would visit allies and clients that he believed Obama had treated badly: Britain, Poland, and Israel. Romney hoped to highlight Obama’s supposed failings and to talk up his own support for these relationships. That didn’t go as planned, but it made some kind of sense. Trump’s decision to go to a country that he repeatedly criticizes is odd, and there was no way that it was going to benefit him. If he “succeeds,” he avoids causing an international incident, but he still gets nothing from the exercise.
As for the Mexican president, it’s possible that he is already so unpopular that he thought he had nothing to lose by meeting with Trump. If things worked in his favor, it might give him a brief boost, and if it didn’t he wouldn’t end up much worse off than he was. If that was his bet, he probably lost:
As Mexican Sen. Gabriela Cuevas Barron of the rival National Action Party said in Mexico City, just before Trump’s plane touched down, “Today, what is at risk is the dignity of Mexico. Our president is playing games with both our dignity and our sovereignty.”
Trump’s visit has gained him nothing, and it has probably done considerable harm to his host. It stands out as one of the more bizarre and pointless foreign visits of a nominee for president, and that is in keeping with badly-run, poorly-organized campaign that doesn’t know what it’s doing.