Everyone expected fireworks when Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto invited Donald Trump to Mexico, given Trump’s racist remarks about Mexicans and his insistence that, if elected president, he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. But, when the two men finally appeared together in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that the event was a dud. Peña Nieto passive aggressively explained how trade works and politely informed Trump that immigration peaked a decade ago. Trump, meanwhile, talked about how what he actually wants to do is make the Western hemisphere great again. When asked if he had discussed who would pay for the wall with Peña Nieto, he said it didn’t come up and Peña Nieto said nothing, seemingly confirming the assertion. All in all, both men seemed kind of bored with one another.
But then, slowly but surely, the conflict everyone expected began to emerge. It started when, hours after the press conference (I still have no idea why it took hours) Peña Nieto released a statement claiming that the wall had, in fact, come up in conversation because he told Trump that there wasn’t a chance in hell that Mexico was going to pay for it.
And then, Wednesday evening at his much-heralded immigration speech, Trump said “Mexico will pay for the wall. One hundred percent.” He then added, “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for it,” as if he was trying to make it seem like he had tricked Peña Nieto at their earlier meeting. Early Thursday morning, he made the point again on Twitter:
Peña Nieto fired back on Thursday afternoon. (Seriously, what takes this guy so long?)
Translation: ““I repeat what I said personally, Mr. Trump: Mexico will never pay for a wall.”
All of this should have happened Wednesday afternoon, but it seems like both Peña Nieto and Trump didn’t realize what they actually wanted to say to one another until hours after they met. It’s like the Seinfeld episode where George comes up with the perfect comeback, hours after getting picked on for shoving shrimp in his mouth. Except in this instance, both Peña Nieto and Trump are George Costanza.