Over the past several months, Donald Trump has famously said a lot of nasty things about Mexican immigrants. What’s less often noted is that he thinks the Mexican government is run by the world's most hyper-competent supervillains. The upshot is that only Trump has the wherewithal to beat them.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said as he announced his candidacy last June. “They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
“The Mexican government,” he later added, “forces many bad people into our country because they're smart…. They're smarter than our leaders, and their negotiators are far better than what we have, to a degree that you wouldn’t believe."
Trump honestly seems to believe that Mexican migration to the United States is controlled by the Mexican government, rather than, say, complex economic changes and cross-border social ties. Now, it turns out, he thinks that the Mexican government controls the Pope as well, and tricked the head of the Catholic Church into disliking Trump.
"The Pope was in Mexico," Trump said, responding to Francis’s comment yesterday that his border-wall lust disqualified him from Christianity. "Do you know that? Does everyone know that? He said negative things about me because the Mexican government convinced him that Trump is not a good guy because I want to have a strong border, I want to stop illegal immigration, I want to stop people from being killed."
People, for very good reason, pay a lot of attention to Trump’s racism. But his comments about immigration point to something else critical to his worldview: Trump thinks that world events can be reduced to the raw genius or stupidity of a given country’s leaders. Trump takes a MENSA member approach to the world, fetishizing intelligence without demonstrating actual intellectual competence. Just as Trump represents a poor man’s idea of what a rich man must be like, his theory of governance is statecraft as a marketing executive might see it.
For what it’s worth, Mexicans don’t think much of a government that fails to address widespread poverty, corruption and impunity. A recent Grupo Reforma poll found that after El Chapo’s recapture, more Mexicans’ opinions of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government actually fell rather than rose, and a strong majority credited cartel leaders’ carelessness for his capture rather than the government’s competence.
When Peña Nieto is feeling down, which I imagine is quite frequently, he should pick up the phone and give Trump a call. Trump, at least, thinks the Mexican government doing a helluva good job.