After the two politicians met, a visibly exhausted Trump said he respected Mexican people because he hires so many, despite the insults he has hurled at them throughout his campaign. He also said he looks forward to tweaking NAFTA to keep jobs in this hemisphere, which is a newly broad definition of where Trump thinks job should be kept.

Reporters immediately asked: Did you talk about who was going to pay for the wall?

“We didn’t discuss payment of the wall,” Trump muttered.

Huh. Must have missed something. Let me just check the campaign website again. Yup, right here:

Image for article titled Donald Trump forgot to ask Mexico to pay for his wall

According to Trump, “the United States has borne the extraordinary daily cost of this criminal activity…we have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage.” Surely, with leverage like that, it must have been an error that Trump didn’t bring it up.

Reporters in the room, perhaps disbelieving Trump, asked Peña Nieto if Trump’s number one agenda item with regard to the two countries relationships wasn’t mentioned.

No, the Mexican president said, their ”open and constructive” conversation didn’t touch on it, but “I made him notice and feel the great responsibility that I have as president of Mexico to defend the Mexican people.”

Just a momentary lapse, then, by Trump, who didn’t mention the biggest applause line at all his events.

Peña Nieto reiterated to the press, and presumably to Trump, that undocumented immigration to the US from Mexico is falling, not rising, that the US and Mexico have deep economic ties, and that Mexico suffers when weapons flow south through the border.

Some pundits immediately found Trump’s sudden decorum presidential. After all, a diplomat doesn’t discuss disagreements where little progress is expected, at least not in public. His staffers certainly hope this take sticks: Trump is trying to soften his image without actually softening his policy, if he can get away with it.

But Trump’s campaign has been premised on the idea that US diplomats are mealy-mouthed losers who can’t get a good deal. Trump’s going to get you a great deal when he goes in and uses all his leverage.

If he can remember to ask about his number one demand.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.