When the White House uses a foreign leader as a political prop

I can still remember the days when President Barack Obama at least made the effort to pretend that he was the leader of the entire nation and not simply the chief cheerleader for the Democratic Party. That began tapering off rather quickly after he won his final election, but there were still times when he would add in some lip service to his various policy speeches which suggested that we were all in this together, even if roughly half of the country disagreed with him. Sadly, those days are clearly over. Yesterday we were witness to one of the most blatantly politically craven displays to mar the grounds of the White House in recent memory when the President brought in the leader of another sovereign nation to do Hillary Clinton’s campaign work for her.

On the day after Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Barack Obama hosted a hastily arranged press conference with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and it of course featured the Republican celebration and the new nominee prominently, with Mexico’s leader acting as a stage prop in that effort. How blatant was this very thinly disguised campaign stop? As The Week noted already, this meeting was thrown together at the last minute.

Obama and Peña Nieto met most recently last month at a North American summit in Canada, and while most White House visits from foreign leaders are announced well in advance, the Mexican president’s visit was unveiled just last week.

The White House dismissed suggestions that the visit had anything to do with Trump’s GOP convention or the Latino vote. “I think it’s fair to say that almost anything that President Obama did on Friday would be viewed as a sharp contrast to the agenda that’s being put forward by the other side,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

Yes, Josh Earnest was stuck with the job of explaining how this all took place and even he wasn’t really trying. Meetings between world leaders are typically complicated affairs to arrange and manage, but somehow this one took place with only seven days to put it together. Earnest smiled as he described it as a coincidence, but the insultingly obvious nature of this tawdry display didn’t stop there. The White House Press Secretary was quick to remind journalists that this would be an excellent chance to ask Nieto about The Donald. (Washington Times)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest portrayed the timing of the presidents’ meeting as innocent.

“This is not an unusual occurrence,” he told reporters. “I don’t know exactly how President Pena Nieto plans to address the question about the Republican nominee, but presumably one of you will ask him and give him the opportunity to do so.”

Pena Nieto was careful to hedge all of his comments with assurances that he wasn’t taking sides in the election, but the policy points under discussion made the message clear enough. The “coincidence” aspect of the administration’s claims is laughable at best. Obama just came back from an official visit and series of meetings with both Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the end of June. There were numerous meetings, speeches and press calls. If the two had anything pressing to discuss which couldn’t be done by phone it was surely taken care of then. Scheduling a hastily thrown together trip barely three weeks later when most world leaders wait at least a year between meetings with the US President (if that often) was the height of obvious, cynical, political gamesmanship.

Do you remember how the Democrats howled when Bibi Netanyahu was invited to address Congress? And that was during an odd numbered year with no election on the immediate horizon. What an awful thing to do, even if it was arranged by the Speaker of the House and not a presidential candidate. But now it seems that there are no more rules in political warfare and the Mexican president has made himself a willing prop for the Democrats.

The GOP should have one obvious and clear message coming in response to this. Hey, President Pena Nieto… get your checkbook ready. The wall just got twenty feet higher.

(Original article improperly referred to the President of Mexico as “Nieto” rather than “Pena Nieto” and has been corrected.)