I receive emails from nationally syndicated columnist and unashamed Trumphater Ben Shapiro on a daily basis. I typically read the first sentence or two describing how Trump is a racist or a nutjob or a terrorist, then delete the email and carry on with my life.
Today I received a Ben email that took me a little deeper. I kept reading, and as I continued to read and continued to read, I realized…. BEN GETS IT! He has seen the light, the epiphany is upon him!
Ben’s report of Trump’s incredibly daring trip to Mexico and subsequent immigration policy speech in Phoenix, during which The Donald knocked it out of the park, was spot on and uncharacteristically honest.
I am reminded of the Krauthammer epiphany, when Charles sheepishly announced, after calling Trump a rodeo clown, “I was wrong. Democrats fear him!”
From Ben Shapiro, The Daily Wire
Traveling to Mexico for a brief tete-a-tete with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday, Donald Trump had a low threshold for success: don’t humiliate yourself, don’t let Nieto humiliate you, and don’t back down from your central arguments.
Trump passed that threshold with flying colors. In the process, he looked the most presidential he has the entire election cycle.
That meant abandoning his Trumpian persona. Yes, Trump’s energy level was Jeb!-esque, almost churlishly anti-enthused. But for Trump, this passes for sobriety. Yes, Trump completely abandoned talk about making Mexico pay for his famed Great Wall of Trumpia. But for Trump, that passes for diplomacy.
Trump got what he needed: a compliant performance from Nieto. Nieto spelled out his policy differences with Trump, even as Trump stood next to him looking deeply bored: Nieto complained of America’s drug demand and the flow of weapons south from the United States, he reinforced that it was a Mexican priority to protect Mexicans living in the United States, and he pointed out that net immigration from Mexico has been negative. He also stood up for NAFTA.
None of this was great for Trump – but Trump stood there and took it. Which, in TrumpWorld, counts as a significant exercise in self-control.
Trump then reiterated his priorities, which he said were shared with Mexico. First, he said, Mexico and the United States wanted to “[end] illegal immigration…not just between our two countries, but including the illegal immigration and migration from Central and South Americans, and from other regions that impact security and finances in both Mexico and the United States.” Second, he stated that “having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial.” Third, Trump said that the two countries would work together to dismantle “drug cartels and end the movement of illegal drugs, weapons and funds across our border.” Fourth, Trump said that both sides would work together to “improve” NAFTA. Finally, he concluded that the United States and Mexico would have to join to “keep manufacturing wealth in our hemisphere.”
All of these points are Trump stump speech notions. But Nieto didn’t chide him or contradict him. And so Trump got his moment before the cameras, shaking Nieto’s hand in a display of international diplomacy.
What does all of this mean? The network news tonight covered Trump’s Mexico trip as a triumph – the long-awaited pivot in action. They commented on Trump’s unwillingness to discuss payment for The Wall, but that’s unlikely to hurt him. That means Trump just achieved a big win: he looked stable and sane rather than scary. The more of that he does – the more Louisiana trips and Mexico conferences – the less Hillary’s “he’s a total nutjob” line of attack resonates.
Trump will also be able to feed his base the line that he stood up to Nieto and spelled out most of priorities – that this was all a preliminary meeting for the big Come To Donald meeting in which he mandates that Nieto pony up for The Wall. Since Trump did state most of his talking points standing next to Nieto, then get Nieto to shake hands, that’s plausible.
All in all, this was the smartest move of the Trump campaign so far, and it comes on the heels of several other smart moves (Louisiana trip, ISIS speech, tour of black communities). Trump with discipline and low expectations is a contender. Now the only question is: can it last?