Donald Trump is not a smart man. Donald Trump is a big baby. He went to Mexico briefly yesterday, did a passable imitation of a statesman, then came back to America -- and it was as if he said, "Mommy, Daddy, I ate all my vegetables. I WANT DOUBLE DESSERT!!!" In Phoenix he was clearly wallowing in the adulation he gets when he feeds audiences red meat. He was energized and engaged in a way he clearly wasn't in Mexico. He didn't even attempt to sustain the illusion that as president he'd be the moderate guy he was playing in Mexico.
This was his chance. He was in the process of fooling the press -- as Media Matters notes, Patrick Healy of The New York Times filed a story shortly after the speech that was clearly written largely before the speech took place. This would have been the conventional wisdom today if Trump had shown some restraint in Phoenix:
Donald J. Trump made an audacious attempt on Wednesday to remake his image on the divisive issue of immigration, shelving his plan to deport 11 million undocumented people and suggesting that the United States and Mexico would solve the immigration crisis together.But as Media Matters notes,
In a spirited bid for undecided American voters to see him anew, Mr. Trump swept into Mexico City to make overtures to a nation he has repeatedly denigrated, then flew to Phoenix to outline his latest priorities on immigration -- a stark turnaround from the “deportation force” and other severe tactics that helped win him the Republican nomination.
After the article was published online, it was widely panned by reporters who said that its author had “apparently watched a completely different immigration speech” and produced a “systematic failure.”The story was rewritten, and now tells us that Trump
displayed an almost unrecognizable demeanor during his afternoon in Mexico, appearing measured and diplomatic, while hours later he took the stage at his campaign rally and denounced illegal immigrants on the whole as a criminally minded and dangerous group that sows terror in communities and commits murders, rapes and other heinous violence.Trump was so close to being given cred for a "pivot" by the mainstream press, but he couldn't help himself -- he wanted to give an unrestrained speech in Phoenix, full of his usual applause lines, and if being a good boy for a few hours was the price he had to pay, well, that's what he'd do:
Mr. Trump’s course adjustment emerged in an atmosphere of growing urgency and alarm within his campaign. Over the last week, close associates have told both Mr. Trump and members of his family that he is in real danger of losing the race, according to a half-dozen people close to the Trump campaign and briefed on its activities, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid angering the nominee.I don't think that was it. I think all these people had been pestering him to be statesmanlike. So he did what they wanted -- and then he felt he'd punched that ticket and now it was time for some fun.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who lobbied in favor of the trip to Mexico, has told Mr. Trump that he must make immediate changes to regain his footing, associates said. And on Monday, Mr. Trump’s son Eric met with senior officials at the Republican National Committee in Washington and heard a grim prognosis of his father’s campaign, according to people briefed on the meeting.
Without a major shake-up of the electoral map, strategists indicated to the younger Mr. Trump, his father’s already narrow path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win could vanish.....
The idea of a trip to Mexico had been under consideration for weeks: Melania Trump, Mr. Trump’s wife, endorsed the move earlier in August and Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, had raced to open talks with the Mexican foreign ministry. Yet Mr. Trump himself had been hesitant, fearing a fiasco if Mr. Peña Nieto attempted to embarrass him....
By Monday morning, however, Mr. Trump decided that his political circumstances demanded bold action.
Obviously he was reading a teleprompter speech (with many ad libs) -- I'm not saying that Trump was winging it in Phoenix. But he'd clearly negotiated with his team -- a little gravitas, then I get to be self-indulgent.
He could have won praise from the mainstream media if he'd followed the Mexico trip up with a serious-sounding speech. As I said in my last post, mainstream journalists are rooting for Trump to stop hurting and embarrassing the press's friends in the establishment GOP, and the Clinton-loathers in the press want Hillary taken down a peg, and all of them want a real horse race.
But Trump let them down. The big infant wanted to have fun.