The Peña Nieto-Trump meeting on Wednesday was widely interpreted as a Hail Mary for both politicians, who are deeply unpopular in their home countries. We’ll never have an unadulterated sample to judge the effect Trump’s jaunt to Mexico had on his campaign—his alt-right jamboree on Wednesday evening took care of that. In any case, the jury is still out for Trump’s (listless) performance.
The same can not be said for Peña Nieto’s. The Mexican president was given failing grades before he had even finished speaking—once it became clear that the Mexico trip was not some elaborate trap, most reacted with horror. TV anchor Carlos Loret de Mola tweeted that “the humiliation is now complete.” Former president Vincente Fox said that Trump “fooled” Peña Nieto. Jorge Ramos wrote that the Mexican president was “not ready” for Trump. And Slate’s Jim Newell described Peña Nieto as “a not-too-bright president [who] got his bluff called.”
Some have argued that Peña Nieto’s ploy was more clever than it appeared: That he was using Trump to distract the country from his own massive unpopularity and the wave of scandals (the missing students and the killing of protestors by police are the most important, but Peña Nieto is also a gaffe machine). But that would make inviting Trump to Mexico seem like starting a massive forest fire to distract from the several other massive forest fires that are currently engulfing you.