For Mexicans, the Double Curse of a Pushover President in the Face of Trump

Twice now since August, Donald Trump has treated the Mexican president with open contempt, and been met with shocked and feeble hesitation, writes the Mexico City daily La Jornada. A president and a political class which have somehow still failed to apprehend the kind of man they are now dealing with in Washington:

“When you don’t make a decision soon enough,” the old proverb says, “someone will make it for you.”

Perhaps it was never such a great plan for President Peña Nieto to leave in suspense yesterday the question of whether or not he would travel to Washington next week. Unnecessarily, he publicly postponed the decision to cancel his visit.

The delay allowed Donald Trump to jump in and fill the uncertainty in a moment which could have made the American President look foolish.

In other words, Trump decided to strike the first blow rather than allowing Peña Nieto to publicly snub him by canceling his visit.

He fired off a message from his Twitter account, warning Peña Nieto that if he wasn’t ready to pay for the Border Wall, he shouldn’t bother coming to Washington. The Mexican government was left with no option but a humiliating retreat; the Mexican president’s Tweet announcing that he had informed the White House that he was canceling the visit was inevitable. The crude pronouncement by Trump had left him no other option.

The Mexican president’s hesitations in the face of a person who had already once before humiliated him-and in his own house- have once again cost him dearly.

The crude treatment of Peña Nieto by Trump has splashed like a bucket of icewater on the American political class. Nevertheless, the leadership of the Republican party refused to contradict or reprimand Trump for his mistreatment of the Mexican president.

“We are not going to give advice to the President on managing his relations with Mexico,” the Republican leader of the Senate said this morning.

In any case, the planned visit by the Mexican president would have been more symbolic than practical. The negotiations on matters of security, migration, and the ‘modernization’ of NAFTA will have to follow their own course, with or without the presence of Peña Nieto in Washington.

The worst part of this affair is that the Mexican government has lost the opportunity to show the American president that as powerful as he is, his actions in the face of a friendly nation like Mexico will have consequences.

The opportunity to show a little bit of dignity was lost. The opportunity to show that a partner with whom the US shares more than 500 billion dollars a year in trade cannot simply be kicked around.

Under the impassive gaze of Luis Videgaray, first as secretary of Finance [when he organized Trump’s humiliating August visit to Mexico], and now as Secretary of Foreign Relations, the score has now advanced to 2-0 in favor of Trump, versus the government of Peña Nieto.

Jaime Hernández and David Brooks Translated from Spanish by International Boulevard