he mainstream media is in a frenzy over the disagreement between the Mexican government and GOP nominee Donald Trump over paying for his promised border wall. The hostile press corps’ intense focus on that one obvious fact obscures the scope of common ground and shared interest Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Trump found during their historic meeting Wednesday.
Sources close to the Trump campaign told LifeZette the GOP nominee was committed to having a first, gracious meeting to establish a working relationship for future negotiations. Trump, who knows well how real business is conducted, brought his position to the table. Peña Nieto did the same.
“Trump took charge, naturally, walked off the stage as the dominant guy. He pulled it off. I think he really helped himself.”
While both parties went into the meeting knowing there was an area of disagreement, the meeting itself was respectful, constructive, and focused on finding common ground.
Trump was in “listening mode” as Peña Nieto explained the hurt many Mexicans felt from some of the GOP nominee’s past comments.
The pair spent much of the meeting discussing how to tackle the scourge of drug violence, drug use, and the organized drug cartels that plague both countries.
In a promising sign for future cooperation on the paired issues of border security and drugs, Peña Nieto made clear in the post-meeting press conference the critical importance to Mexico of securing the illicit activity that flows freely across the border.
"We need to have an overall focus on the border that deals with undocumented immigrants, the flow of drugs, weapons, and cash all at the same time," said Peña Nieto.
Trump, for his part, noted the two countries had a "shared objective of safety and prosperity" in stopping the "flow of drugs and illegal weapons."
The two leaders also discussed the current trade imbalance. Predictably, the two disagreed on the benefits of NAFTA — but both acknowledged they need to work together to counteract the growing economic threat posed by China.
So while the media continues its ballyhoo over who said what about paying for the wall, Trump actually moved the needle of Mexican-U.S. relations in a productive and positive direction.
A few usually reliable Trump detractors took notice.
"I think this is actually the single best day of the general election campaign for Donald Trump," Weekly Standard columnist, Fox News contributor, and avowed NeverTrumper Stephen Hayes said on Fox's "Special Report." "What you saw today was Trump, not only standing with a would-be ally or a traditional ally, but an ally whose citizens he basically attacked again and again and again for the better part of the last year, and pull it off."
Syndicated columnist and fellow Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer shared similar a similar takeaway.
"He took a risk and he pulled it off," Krauthammer said on "Special Report." "Look, the big negative about Trump, the thing that the Clinton campaign plays on, is the fact that it's hard to imagine him as president ... Now here he is, standing on the world stage, with a world leader."
Krauthammer noted Trump struck a particularly assertive, yet serious figure.
"I think in some ways he sort of dominated. The Mexican president was rather defensive, asking for respect ... then if you noticed at the very end when they took questions, it was Trump who took charge. He is sitting in the palace of the president of Mexico. This never happens. Normally, it's the host who picks the journalists. Trump took charge, naturally, walked off the stage as the dominant guy. He pulled it off. I think he really helped himself."
Peña Nieto, who himself was walloped in the Mexican media, seemed to understand the bigger picture. It is not realistic for Mexico to permanently rely on a lopsided economic arrangement with the United States. Instead, when the United States inevitably seeks a more equitable balance, it's in the Mexican people's interest not to get their feelings hurt — but rather use the opportunity to make progress in key areas of shared concern.
The last thing Mexico should want is more animosity from millions of Americans who already see manufacturing jobs flowing south of the border — and drugs and low-skilled workers flowing north of it.
The Mexican president and Trump understand how deals are done. The only people who don't get it seem to work for the mainstream media and Clinton campaign.