/Opinion | The media got Trump’s deal with Mexico wrong

Opinion | The media got Trump’s deal with Mexico wrong

Soldiers stand guard Sunday in Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico. (Marco Ugarte/AP)

President Trump’s critics rushed to judgment over the weekend to deride his immigration deal with Mexico. It turns out that was more because of dislike for him than fact.

Commentators alleged that the new deal was simply a rehash of policies Mexico was already enforcing. The New York Times started the stampede of this allegation, followed by predictable attacks from the usual sources. By Monday the anti-Trump commentariat was sure that it had shown Trump’s supposed deal with Mexico over immigration was “fake news.”

But a report from The Post late Monday based on interviews with U.S. and Mexican officials involved in last week’s talks tells the exact opposite tale. Mexican officials did agree to more extensive measures to crack down on Central American migration to the United States than they had before. They also agreed to pursue even more extensive measures if their approach failed to significantly cut the migrant flow. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has even agreed to consider making Mexico a “safe third country,” which would require it to accept Central American migrants itself, if its effort fail.

Trump, it appears, has done what he set out to do: use the threat of tariffs, which would devastate the Mexican economy, to force Mexico to do something to control its borders. It’s true he exaggerated the nature of the deal, alleging in one tweet that Mexico had agreed to buy more U.S. agricultural products, a claim that was swiftly denied. But both the Mexican president and the country’s foreign minister are now on record saying that Trump’s tariff threat spurred faster and more comprehensive action than they would have otherwise taken.

Fair-minded analysts would now change their opinions. They would acknowledge that Trump’s move might just work, even if they decry its forceful and bullying nature. They would look carefully at the results and monitor this development, parsing out credit and blame as the evidence suggests. They would withhold final judgment for now and see where the chips fall.

Don’t stay up too late waiting for that. The Trump Derangement Syndrome that affects so much of the pundit and opinion-leader class takes precedence over objectivity and fairness.

Remember the North Korean summit earlier this year? The drumbeat of opinion going into the meeting told us how the clever Kim Jong Un would surely fleece Trump, who would take a terrible deal to claim victory in an unnecessary fight caused by his bluster and threats. But when Trump unexpectedly broke off the summit early because Kim’s proffered deal was a loser, the horde blamed Trump for pushing the summit in the first place rather than credit him with judgment they didn’t think he possessed.

The Mexico deal is simply the North Korea summit redux. Trump makes a move the establishment doesn’t like; they lambaste him for it. It results in a deal; they say it’s phony. Now we know it’s not phony, and they surely will find another way to spin it so that Trump remains a devil, a bumbler and an oaf.

This type of animus-driven herd analysis is doing great harm to the media. It also explains why the media’s reporting has had so little influence on public opinion about Trump.

Trump is far from perfect. He makes his share of mistakes and often manages to offend even when he succeeds. He also is a radical — a man who wants U.S. policy to change dramatically and quickly in a host of ways. Anyone who thinks those changes are wrong or pushed too haphazardly has reason to criticize him.

But the leap to condemn his Mexican deal before the evidence was in is, unfortunately, par for the course. The subject matter may be different, but the conclusion is always drearily the same. When the opinion class “knows” he’s wrong to begin with, the facts themselves don’t really matter. And when facts stop mattering to the writers, they stop mattering to their readers, too.

Henry Olsen

Columnist focusing on politics, populism, and American conservative thought