The leaked transcript of the phone conversation had Trump saying:
"You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren't doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn't, so I just might send them down to take care of it."The unnamed source says that was "part of a discussion about how the United States and Mexico could work collaboratively to combat drug cartels and other criminal elements, and make the border more secure." That conversation, we're told, was "pleasant and constructive."
How did this conversation get leaked? I can see the value to Trump. I invite you to entertain the idea that Trump wanted it leaked.
Wanted the conversation with the Australian prime minister leaked too, but I'll put that in a second post.
ADDED: On proofread, I don't like the word "just" in the post title. I don't think it could have been just lighthearted. Humor is also serious, especially in a situation like this. I can believe Trump was trying to loosen up President Nieto and create a man-to-man relationship through humor, humor relevant to the very real problems. We know that Trump has seriously said Mexico will want to help him with his border-security project as they understand the benefits to Mexico, especially in fighting criminal gangs that harm both countries at the border. The "lighthearted" statement gets at that problem and why Nieto should work with Trump.
Now, whoever leaked the transcript has cued up this very controversy, crime across the border with Mexico. The press must pick up this story, because the irresistible candy coating is Trump saying something bad again. But to digest that story, you've got to talk about the crime problem and how anyone other than Trump has a way to solve it. "I alone can fix it," Trump has said. And is it not true? Does anyone else have a way to fix it? Having swallowed the yummy Trump-said-something-bad story, the country will take a close look at Dr. Trump's Remedy.
Trump made us talk about that. I mean, whoever leaked that story is making us talk about that.
ALSO: Consider the special problem of using humor across a language barrier. How could Trump expect nuances of tone — from lighthearted to threatening — to pass through translation correctly? Maybe you think President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks English. I looked it up. He claims to speak English, but from what I've seen, he only speaks it very poorly, not well enough to communicate with any sophistication.
In 2014, on a visit to California to address the state legislature, he offered to speak only Spanish and with no translator, because "I believe that most of you speak Spanish."
MORE: I meant to say, in that last update, Trump, in his humor/"humor" used a Spanish word, "hombre." I have no idea how that felt to Spanish-speaking Nieto. To an American, it's reminiscent of old cowboy movies, and "hombre," even without the "bad," has a negative connotation. Beyond the old cowboy context, "hombre" sounds funny to us, but it wouldn't have automatic funniness to a native Spanish-speaker. Yet, if Nieto was listening to a translator, he wouldn't even know that Trump had used the Spanish word, would he?
IN THE COMMENTS: Quoting my, "I invite you to entertain the idea that Trump wanted it leaked," Balfegor says:
Ah, I see -- perhaps the White House official spoke on condition of anonymity because it was John Miller.