The optics were looking good. Not much substantive action but lights, cameras, microphones, a big important desk, the imposing Oval office, several flicks of his hard to open special pen and a countenance desperately trying to look presidential. Sounds like a B-Movie, doesn’t it? No, it was the Trump White House this week, where a flurry of executive order signings were captured for the viewing audience, including one for the construction of the Mexico border wall. Incidentally, he cannot use his executive powers for such a massive project and must get Congress’s approval. To add to the troubles of the struggling new administration, this last optics didn’t end well. His signature campaign chant of “We are going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,” unfolded quite differently to how he must have envisioned it in his alternate universe.
Turns out saying our southern friend will pay for the wall was one of those alternative facts his chief spin doctor Kellyanne Conway was referring to. That chant turned into taxpayers will foot the astronomical bill and Mexico will do the reimbursing later. During an ABC interview Wednesday, President Donald Trump oscillated back to Mexico would pay for the wall, although he offered David Muir no specifics other than maybe a complicated pay back program– of sorts.
According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the wall will cost an estimated $12-15 billion or more but Trump kept insisting our southern border neighbor was going to foot the bill. On Thursday morning, he took to Twitter to taunt the Mexican president, tweeting, “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall, then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” Unfortunately for this self-proclaimed “greatest negotiator” it backfired “bigly.”
Since Twitter seem to be the preferred place to conduct presidential business, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto responded by abruptly backing out of the meeting with Trump, via Twitter. Apparently out of moves in this checkers match, Trump tried to spin the smack-down he just received and his alternative facts turned into the cancellation of the meeting being mutual. (see more in attached video).
One would have expected this master negotiator to do much better at his first negotiation as president with our next-door ally. After all, his “Art of The Deal” said he was master of all deals. If he cannot “make great deals” with a friend, how is he going to handle foreign policy complexities across the globe?
By Thursday evening, payment for the wall had morphed into a 20 percent tax imposed on all goods exported to the U.S. from Mexico. Then payment method changed yet again, when the white House walked back the high tariff. Understandably, these bumbling tactics are destroying the friendly relationship between the U.S. and it’s third largest trading partner. In fact, it is baffling to watch this president alienating allies at record speed while continuing to cozy up to foes like Russia.
This new president has slammed everyone, including the pope, president Obama, U.S. Intelligence, Congress, high-ranking members of his own party, POW John McCain, the FBI, the black community, Mexicans, immigrants, a federal judge, women, the disabled, a Civil Rights Icon, Unions, gold star families, conglomerates and threatened to imprison his opponent Hillary Clinton. The list is endless but the only person Trump hasn’t said a negative word against is Vladimir Putin. He has vowed to investigate the mythical voter fraud, while ignoring Russia’s hacking of our election.