Trump re­verts to his xeno­pho­bic self

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— Don­ald Trump has warned us about those Mex­i­can rapists. Ap­par­ently the coun­try also has body snatch­ers.

The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee im­mi­grated briefly to Mexico on Wed­nes­day for a hastily ar­ranged visit with the leader of the coun­try he has made his No. 1 scape­goat. He spent all of an hour with Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto — but when the two men emerged, who­ever was oc­cu­py­ing Trump’s body sounded noth­ing at all like the bom­bas­tic bil­lion­aire.

“In the United States, first-, sec­ond- and third-gen­er­a­tion Mex­i­cans are just be­yond re­proach — spec­tac­u­lar, spec­tac­u­lar, hard-work­ing peo­ple. I have such great re­spect for them and their strong val­ues of fam­ily, faith and com­mu­nity,” this Trump look-alike de­clared in Mexico City.

The im­pos­tor gushed about a “com­mon in­ter­est in keep­ing our hemi­sphere safe, pros­per­ous and free,” and waxed po­etic about “joint op­er­a­tions be­tween our two coun­tries.” Trump said the coun­tries should be “work­ing beau­ti­fully to­gether, and that, I am sure, will hap­pen.”

And the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, which Trump had called a “dis­as­ter” and promised to “rip up”? This Trump dop­pel­ganger spoke in­stead about “im­prov­ing NAFTA” and mak­ing sure it’s “up­dated.” He pro­nounced Pena Ni­eto “a friend.”

A re­porter asked: Did they talk about his con­stant vow to get Mexico to pay for the bor­der wall he wants to build?

“We didn’t dis­cuss that,” war­mand-fuzzy Trump said. What had they done with Trump? Alas, within hours, he was back to his xeno­pho­bic self. The bick­er­ing be­gan even be­fore he cleared Mex­i­can airspace, as Pena Ni­eto, con­tra­dict­ing Trump, said he had told Trump at the be­gin­ning of the meet­ing that Mexico would not pay for a wall.

But Trump, hav­ing com­pleted his photo op with the Mex­i­can pres­i­dent, dis­carded the “friend” he had ap­par­ently just used as a prop. Trump landed in Phoenix for what was sup­posed to be a de­tailed “pol­icy ad­dress” on im­mi­gra­tion but was a fa­mil­iar, na­tivist rant. Pre­ceded at the lectern by Joe Ar­paio, the Ari­zona sher­iff and anti-im­mi­gra­tion hard-liner, Trump launched into a lament for the “count­less Amer­i­cans” who are “vic­tims of vi­o­lence” by il­le­gal im­mi­grants who are “dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals.”

“We will build a great wall along the south­ern bor­der!” he said to an enor­mous cheer.

“And Mexico will pay for the wall!

WASH­ING­TON

One-hun­dred per­cent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re go­ing to pay for the wall.”

So much for work­ing beau­ti­fully to­gether.

This was the Trump we all knew, the Trump who ques­tions the ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence of an Amer­i­can-born judge be­cause of his Mex­i­can her­itage, who fights with Mex­i­can Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists, and who as­serts that Mexico is “killing us.”

Trump’s trip to Mexico was some­thing of a Hail Maria, as polls show Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton with a yu­uge ad­van­tage and Democrats with a bet­ter than even chance of tak­ing back the Se­nate. And from Ari­zona and Florida on Tues­day came new signs that Trump’s re­bel­lion has fiz­zled.

In Ari­zona, Kelli Ward, a proTrump pri­mary chal­lenger, had been try­ing to oust Sen. John McCain, whose war hero­ism Trump fa­mously be­lit­tled, with a “de­feat the es­tab­lish­ment” theme like Trump’s. She lost by 13 points. In Florida, Car­los Beruff said that he “sup­ports Don­ald Trump 100 per­cent,” while his pri­mary op­po­nent, Sen. Marco Ru­bio, did not. Beruff lost by 54 points.

But Trump’s at­tempt at ap­pear­ing diplo­matic was only a feint. If his core sup­port­ers were wor­ried — and if the rest of Amer­i­cans were re­as­sured — that he was soft­en­ing his hard-line po­si­tion, they had to wait only un­til he spoke in Phoenix on Wed­nes­day night.

In Mexico City, Trump en­dured with­out com­plaint a lec­ture from the Mex­i­can pres­i­dent, who said that NAFTA has been good for “the U.S. as well as Mexico” and that the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce thinks that more than 6 mil­lion Amer­i­can jobs rely on trade with Mexico. Pena Ni­eto said that im­mi­gra­tion from Mexico to the United States peaked 10 years ago and is now at a net neg­a­tive. “Mex­i­can na­tion­als in the United States are hon­est peo­ple, work­ing peo­ple,” he said. “Mex­i­cans de­serve ev­ery­body’s re­spect.”

Trump al­most seemed to agree. “Il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion is a prob­lem for Mexico as well as for us,” he said. “We will work to­gether and we will get those prob­lems solved.”

But back on Amer­i­can soil, he re­turned to his fa­mil­iar lines: “It’s called Amer­ica First! ... There will be no amnesty! ... You can­not ob­tain le­gal sta­tus or be­come a cit­i­zen of the United States by il­le­gally en­ter­ing our coun­try.”

The real Don­ald Trump was back. Alas.

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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