Trump to Mexican president: If you won't pay for the wall, maybe we should cancel our meeting; Update: Mexico cancels meeting

Readers who follow Mexican politics: Is Pena-Nieto always this bad at his job? If you’re going to threaten to cancel a meeting with Trump to protest the border wall, you have to be prepared for him responding by daring you to do it — and then, once your bluff has been called, you have to do it. The worst thing you can do in establishing a relationship with a “dominance” junkie like Trump is to prove to him early that you’re spineless and your threats aren’t worth taking seriously.

Yet that’s what happened. Trump acted this morning…

…and now Mexico is reacting by suggesting that it’s going to cave:

A possible cancellation of a meeting planned next week between Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump would fuel uncertainty, Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade said on Thursday.

“That’s correct,” Meade said on Mexican radio when asked if a cancellation of the meeting would fuel uncertainty.

Imagine being a Mexican voter who dislikes Trump watching this play out. A Twitter pal made me laugh by saying of Pena-Nieto, “He’s Mexico’s Rubio.”

You could say that Pena-Nieto has no choice but to cave given how important U.S. consumers are to the Mexican economy, but that’s not an argument against caving, it’s an argument against making any threat in the first place. Instead of hinting that he might cancel the meeting, Pena-Nieto should have said something diplomatic like, “Mexico reiterates that it won’t pay for America’s border wall. We look forward to discussing that issue, as well as the many matters on which our two nations cooperate, at our meeting with President Trump later this month.” As it is, he managed to achieve a populist double whammy: American populists will love that Trump got the better of Mexico’s president while Mexican populists will hate Pena-Nieto for the same reason. According to one poll, 89 percent of Mexicans — 89 percent — have a bad or very bad impression of Trump. How do you cave knowing those numbers are what they are?

The coup de grace will come when Trump cancels the meeting himself and Pena-Nieto has to beg him to reschedule. Oh well. Vicente Fox, at least, seems to understand populism:

The guy actually hashtagged “F***ing Wall.” Now that’s commitment.

Here he is ranting at Trump again this morning, this time on video. Er, contra Fox, Pena-Nieto did not “win this battle.” Exit quotation via David Frum: “So we’re all going to feel very pleased with ourselves when the Mexicans replace Pena Nieto with a left-wing anti-American nationalist.”

Update: Sounds like someone pulled Pena-Nieto aside this morning and patiently explained the politics of this to him. He says the meeting is off.