Why is it that everything Donald Trump says has two versions, and both of them are his? Take his softer, harsher tone in discussing illegal immigrants from Mexico living in this country. As it is with so many other issues, what the Republican presidential nominee said and how he said it depended on the audience.
After a meeting Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump said his signature proposal as a presidential candidate - forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall to impede illegal immigrants - was not discussed. But apparently that depends on the meaning of discuss.
Nieto said not only did they talk about it, he "made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall." There was no lengthy conversation, so maybe Trump feels justified in claiming no discussion occurred. But that raises another question: Why not?
For months Trump has been talking about making Mexico pay for a border wall, but when he finally gets into a room with the Mexican president he is struck dumb on the subject. The only way Trump keeps quiet about anything is if it's a calculated move.
It didn't take long for him to reveal his strategy. Having not said anything that could be construed as backing down on the wall, he could make it a key component of his "policy address" on immigration hours later in Phoenix.
"Number One, are you ready? Are you ready?" Trump asked an enthusiastic crowd of supporters. "We will build a great wall along the southern border. And Mexico will pay for it. One hundred percent. They don't know it yet, but they're going to pay for it."
Considered outside the hyperbolic nature of a presidential campaign, building a wall isn't the most important immigration issue. In fact, walls and fencing have existed along some sections of the border since 1994. Trump says his wall will be taller and deeper. But not even oceans have kept determined immigrants from entering this country.
Trump's immigration plan stirs up emotions, not solutions. He wants "zero tolerance" for criminal aliens. Who doesn't? Illegal immigrants with criminal records have come here and committed more crimes. But they're not just from Mexico. And it smears U.S. law enforcement to suggest they don't zealously pursue all criminals - even immigrants.
Trump wants "extreme vetting" of immigrants from Syria and Libya. But if his intent is to keep out potential terrorists, he should place more emphasis on the homegrown variety, which experts say have orchestrated most of the terroristic attacks in this country since 9/11.
Trump in meeting with Nieto tried to appear more sensitive to why Mexicans seek opportunity in the United States. But then he insisted in his Arizona speech that all illegal immigrants, no matter how long they have been working and paying taxes in this country, would eventually be deported if he is president. That's a shortsighted, simplistic, expensive solution.
Congress, before it became a partisan battlefield for Obamacare combatants, came close to agreeing on a reform bill that included a path to citizenship for deserving but undocumented immigrants. Breaking up families and sending people home who have otherwise been law-abiding, contributing members of American society benefits no one except perhaps a politician who uses xenophobia to win votes.