Bill Clinton offered encouragement as Trump considered running for president

Here’s a thought experiment: Suppose during tomorrow’s GOP presidential debate, Megyn Kelly asks each candidate to name the American politician or politicians whom he respects and trusts sufficiently to seek political advice from. What would the nomination prospects be for a candidate who answered: Bill Clinton?

Non-existent, I say. And the answer would go down as among the worst gaffes in the long history of presidential debates.

It turns out, though, that Donald Trump did turn to Bill Clinton for political advice as he was deciding whether to run for president. The Washington Post reports, and sources in the Clinton and Trump camps confirm, that Trump talked to Bill Clinton about the political landscape shortly before entering the race for the GOP nomination.

We shouldn’t be surprised. It’s no secret — though it’s not well known yet — that Donald Trump has a solid personal relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Hillary sat in the front row at Trump’s 2005 wedding, and Bill participated in the subsequent festivities. In addition, Trump has donated to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaigns and has contributed to the Clinton Foundation.

Given his obvious respect for the Clintons, it was natural that Trump wanted Bill Clinton’s candid, disinterested assessment of the political landscape before deciding whether to run for president. What seems unnatural is Trump’s faith that the husband of the (then) runaway Democratic frontrunner would provide a candid, disinterested assessment.

As the for the details of the call, it apparently came from Bill Clinton. However, a source in the Clinton camp said the former president was returning several calls Trump had made to him.

The Clinton camp insists that the two men didn’t discuss the presidential race, per se. But, as sources describe the conversation, the discussion certainly pertained to that race.

Trump was “candid about his political ambitions and his potential interest in seeking the White House during the talk,” according to his “allies.” As for Bill, he “listened intently and then analyzed Trump’s prospects and his desire to rouse the GOP base.”

Clinton never urged Trump to run, but he was “upbeat and encouraging.” He reportedly told Trump that the billionaire was striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and was a rising force on the right.

Clinton turned out to be right, which I suppose will be a big part of Trump’s defense if called upon to explain why he turned to Clinton for advice. Whether Clinton fully believed what he told Trump or was spinning on behalf of Hillary’s interests is not clear. At a minimum, though, Bill must have known that Trump had the potential to complicate significantly the GOP race.

I doubt whether Trump appreciated the irony, but I’m pretty sure Slick Willie drew amusement from the fact that this “rising force on the right” was seeking political advice from the one-time (and possibly future) bane of conservatives. I find it pretty amusing myself.

At the time of this discussion, Hillary had recently formally entered the race. This must have made it all the more fun for Bill to encourage the tossing of a stink bomb into the GOP camp.

And stink, it does.