American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Senior Fellow and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton delved into Donald Trump’s visit to Mexico with SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily.
“I thought the trip to Mexico by Donald Trump was an outstanding success,” said Bolton. “My assessment before his meeting with Mexican President Peña Nieto was that it was a gamble. There were certainly upsides to its potential, but there were risks, as well, and that it was something daring and dramatic, which you will never see from Hillary Clinton.”
He noted Trump took this gamble “at a time when his campaign was behind Clinton, in polls all across the country and in battleground states.”
“This is the mark of somebody who’s prepared to take decisive action when the need arises. He did, and it was an outstanding success,” Bolton pronounced. He added:
I think he demonstrated that he can hold his own with the head of a foreign government. Obviously, they disagreed. No one expected they were going to reach agreement on the border issue in their first meeting, but it was obviously a respectful meeting. In diplomatic parlance, it’s what we call, I’m sure, an exchange of views, not a negotiation. You’re just telling each other what you think.
And they they came out and had something that looked, for all the world, even in the absence of an American flag for Donald Trump, looked like two heads of state discussing a bilateral meeting they had just held. In answer to the question, “Can Donald Trump appear presidential?” the answer is yes. And so I thought the trip was a home run.
He conceded there were “disagreements on what they had said on certain points,” but that was “not surprising,” since it “happens all the time in bilateral meetings.”
“I do think that Trump has changed some of his views on immigration,” Bolton said. “I know that some of his supporters will disagree with that, but I think he has changed somewhat, and I think that’s all to the good.”
I think the outcome, net-net, of yesterday was that it should be reassuring to many people who ought to be voting for the Republican nominee for president, that Trump is somebody they can trust in the White House. So I expect the political outcome of yesterday will be a plus-up in the percentage of Republicans and independents now supporting Trump, and I think it should help close the gap with Clinton even more.
Bolton dismissed the discrepancies between post-meeting comments by Trump and Nieto as “trivial.”
“The Mexican side knows what Trump’s position is on the wall and who he thinks ought to pay for it,” Bolton observed. “You don’t need to discuss it. I think what the Mexican President was doing, and what the Mexican side said was, they said to Trump, ‘We’re not gonna pay for it.’ Well, what a surprise that is.”
Bolton pointed out:
Sometimes in these meetings, you want to put something on the record, just to be sure the other side understands it, but also so you can say to your domestic population, “We told him we weren’t going to pay for the wall.” Okay, fine. They weren’t going to resolve that issue in that first meeting anyway. They weren’t going to resolve the wall, let alone who pays for it, or whether it’s a good idea in the first place, or anything like that.
Was the question of payment for the wall mentioned? I don’t doubt that it was. I’m sure the Mexican side did say that. From Trump’s view, was it discussed? To me, a discussion is more than about five seconds of considering an issue, and maybe the Mexican President – Trump, wanting the meeting to go well, didn’t give his extended argument on why he wants the Mexicans to pay for it, and how he’d make them do it, because there wasn’t any need to. They understand his position, and he wanted to establish the basis for a constructive relationship. That’s the way you do it.
He said the Clinton campaign’s reaction indicated that “they could see that this is a success for Trump, and they should be desperately worried, I think.”
Bolton anticipated Clinton would now attack Trump for failing to cut a deal on his first meeting with Mexico. “If they knew anything about business, or diplomacy, or much of anything else, other than politics, they’d understand that was not the purpose of the meeting,” he said, postulating that the American people would appreciate what Trump accomplished.
“I think most people understand that on an issue this contentious and this complicated, the first thing you have to do is establish a personal rapport between the two leaders. You have to get a working relationship established. And then there’s gonna be some hard bargaining,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens. Congress is going to get involved. They’ve got appropriate money for at least some of the stuff that needs to be done on immigration reform. And it’s gonna be a process,” noted Bolton. “I think Trump himself has said, ‘This is what I would like to do,’ but he realizes he can’t do it alone – unlike Barack Obama, who’s not limited by mere things like constitutional restrictions, or trivial details like that.”
He summed up the message from the Mexico trip by saying:
Trump had a successful meeting with the leader of a country that has been an element of debate in our politics, now, over the past years. It was a successful meeting in the sense that the two sides did exchange views. They came away and performed in a professional manner in the encounter with the press afterward. And that’s exactly what you would expect from a presidential candidate.
“That’s what’s driving the Clinton people crazy because they were hoping he’d come out and self-destruct, but he didn’t do it. Now, they don’t know what to say,” he added.
Bolton underlined the heavy policy content of Trump’s mission to Mexico:
Whether you agree or disagree with the substance of Trump’s position on the issue, one of the criticisms from his opponents has been he’s not specific enough on what he’s going to do. I thought that speech last night was about as specific as you can get in a presidential campaign.
“I didn’t detect any material change from the policy that he’s been enunciating. He has modified it over time, and I didn’t see any radical departure, or reversion to ‘hardline,’ or further ‘softening,’ as he used the term,” he judged. “That’s what happens in political campaigns. His opponents are hoping the die-hard pro-Trump supporters will reject him as squishing out, turning into a RINO, that kind of thing.”
“I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think he’s accomplished his mission. Again, whether you agree or disagree, in whole or in part, it was the kind of performance you’d expect from a presidential candidate,” said Bolton, “and now it’s on to other issues. I think it was ‘Mission Accomplished’ for Trump yesterday.”
In Bolton’s estimation, the presidential race has not yet “turned around dramatically.”
“I think where we are, right this moment, is that Clinton is still ahead by four or five, six points, which is where it was about three months ago, so the respective convention bumps are over, and Trump is behind,” he said. “But the polls are still inconclusive. We don’t know what the third-party candidates will actually get on Election Day. So if you’re the candidate behind, you have to shake things up and turn them around.”
I think that’s what really worries the Hillary campaign about yesterday’s events because it was the kind of dramatic move, by a decisive leader, that could have a big effect on people. I think it will. I think it shows him as somebody capable of being president, and that’s what some people need to see – particularly among Republicans and independents who haven’t come to support him, that indeed he can handle the job.
Bolton pointed out:
Let’s not forget, for all the criticism of Trump, the polls are also showing that disapproval of Hillary Clinton continues to rise – that the effects of the email scandal, the effects of the Clinton Foundation, the effects of her serial deceptions over the years, continue to drive her unfavorable numbers up.
“So if they’re not careful, these kinds of moves by Trump, I think, could leave them in serious trouble.”
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