A transcript of a phone call between newly sworn in President Donald J. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto obtained by the Washington Post, reveals that Trump pleaded on January 27th, with Peña Nieto to provide him political cover for the hyperventilated rhetoric Trump was slinging around to his base voters during the campaign about Mexico paying for the border wall.
During the conversation between the two, in which Trump did most of the talking in monologue fashion, Trump explained to the President of Mexico, the political strait jacket that (Trump) placed himself in and how that Peña Nieto would earn himself a better bargaining position, if he played along with the subterfuge:
“The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem. My people stand up and say, “Mexico will pay for the wall” and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language. But the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. They are going to say, “who is going to pay for the wall, Mr. President?” to both of us, and we should both say, “we will work it out.” It will work out in the formula somehow. As opposed to you saying, “we will not pay” and me saying, “we will not pay.”
Trump admits to Peña Nieto that the whole concept of the wall from the standpoint of his election to the White House, was a put up job – a necessity, without which he could not have closed the deal with millions of voters:
“I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is okay. But you cannot say anymore that the United States is going to pay for the wall. I am just going to say that we are working it out. Believe it or not, this is the least important thing that we are talking about, but politically this might be the most important talk about. But in terms of dollars – or pesos – it is the least important thing.”
Fortunately for Trump, Peña Nieto doesn’t really want to grapple with the domestic politics of the wall either, and agrees to throw a wet blanket on it. Peña Nieto tells Trump:
“This is what I suggest, Mr. President – let us stop talking about the wall. I have recognized the right of any government to protect its borders as it deems necessary and convenient. But my position has been and will continue to be very firm saying that Mexico cannot pay for that wall.”
But Trump cannot help but to double down on his plea for an agreement to drop the issue of the wall entirely:
“But you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I cannot live with that. You cannot say that to the press because I cannot negotiate under those circumstances.”
And Trump discloses that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner is going to be his main bag man in the deals that will be made between the Trump administration and Mexico, while at the same time, revealing a Mount Rushmore complex:
I will let Jared Kushner, Wilbur Ross, and all the different people that are involved – Wilbur will be confirmed as Secretary of Commerce any moment now – to get with your team and they can knock something out that will be a fabulous agreement. It will look good for both of us. I will say with you representing Mexico and me representing the United States we will have a good agreement and we will almost become the fathers of our country – almost not quite okay?
On the same day, Trump had a phone meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Once again, Trump tries to cajole a foreign leader into assisting him to appease his domestic political audience. This time it has to do with an existing agreement between Australia and the United States, providing that the United States will vet and take refugees who have been imprisoned after trying to enter Australia by boat. Trump tells PM Turnbull:
And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground.
If this is what Trump was teaching as best practices in negotiation in his ghostwritten book “The Art Of The Deal”, it is as pathetic and lacking in strategy as anything I have seen in the field of business development.
Turnbull explains to Trump (who has not bothered to be briefed prior to the call), that the refugees are economic refugees; that Australian authorities have thoroughly vetted them during their 3 year stay in the land down under and that the agreement does not require the U.S. to take any refugees, just to put them through the vetting process and decide.
The agreement was a concession by the Obama administration in trade for other takeaways in treaty negotiations between the two countries. Trump once again, makes a pitch for how he must maintain an image, no matter how real or fictitious it might be:
“Malcom [sic], why is this so important? I do not understand. This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.”
And later in his interminable and repetitive drone, Trump comes back to the central issue. It is not about his desire to conduct the office of the Presidency in a competent and consistently proficient manner, bringing a comprehensive understanding of the facts concerning foreign policy issues – it is about one thing, and one thing only – vanity.
“I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.”
When Trump could not manage to strong arm Turnbull by pleading neediness and pathos, he ends the call in poor form, saying:
” I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.”