In the daylight hours, Trump struck his most presidential pose to date with a solemn (if somewhat grumpy) reading of prepared remarks at a news conference alongside Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. That somber event, inside the Mexican presidential residence, epitomized the more moderate image Trump has pursued on immigration issues over the past ten days.
But as night fell in Phoenix, back in the U.S.A., Trump mounted the stage in prime time and quickly caught fire. He poured forth an hour-long harangue against all things alien, highlighting the lurid crimes of a handful of illegal immigrants as if to define the character of millions. He also promised to build “a beautiful wall” across the entire U.S.-Mexico border and create a “deportation task force” that would eventually guarantee that “the bad ones are gone.”
On the subject of the wall, Trump departed from his script to assure his listeners that Mexico would indeed pay for it – adding, “They may not know it yet, but they will.” In so doing, he as much as acknowledged that Peña Nieto had told him something different earlier in the day.
That was not a minor point, but rather a sore one. The issue of the wall’s cost had taken over the news and Twitter feeds earlier in the evening. Trump himself had insisted at the news conference in Mexico City that the two men did not discuss the financing of the wall. Peña Nieto, who did not contradict Trump at the time (maintaining a striking deference to the American throughout their joint appearance), later tweeted that he had begun their meeting by saying Mexico would never pay for such a wall, a stance Mexican officials have taken consistently.
None of the Trump surrogates appearing across the media landscape Wednesday night seemed to dispute this, saying rather that …