Just a few weeks ago, Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), raised a bizarre conspiracy theory. As the Miami congressman told a local radio show, maybe Donald Trump’s entire presidential campaign is an elaborate scheme – cooked up by Democrats – to make Republicans look ridiculous and undermine the GOP.
Curbelo’s theory seemed a little over the top, but he’s not the only one who’s floated the idea. After this Washington Post report was published late yesterday, the conspiracy theorists felt a degree of vindication.
Former president Bill Clinton had a private telephone conversation in late spring with Donald Trump at the same time that the billionaire investor and reality-television star was nearing a decision to run for the White House, according to associates of both men.Four Trump allies and one Clinton associate familiar with the exchange said that Clinton encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape.
The article added that the former president, according to the sources close to Trump, “listened intently” to the Republican’s ideas, and then “analyzed Trump’s prospects and his desire to rouse the GOP base.”
NBC News confirmed soon after that the conversation took place in late May, before Trump formally announced his candidacy. There are apparently some disagreements over the specific details – Clinton’s office, for example, said the former president and Trump had a casual conversation that did not relate to the 2016 race – but for those who see Trump as a Democratic plant, the particulars are less important than the call itself.
Clearly, it’s an odd year and we’ve come to expect inexplicable developments, but even by 2015 standards, this is a little bizarre. The day before the first debate for the Republican presidential candidates, “four Trump allies” told the Washington Post about a private phone call from three months ago? Did the GOP candidate’s campaign want the story to come out right now? If so, why?
Before the right’s conspiracy theorists get too worked up, though, it’s worth pausing to note that no matter what was said between Clinton and Trump in May, it was Republican voters who responded favorably to Trump’s outrageous antics and message. It seems extraordinarily unlikely that the former president encouraged Trump to call Mexican immigrants “rapists” and question John McCain’s military heroism, but even if that somehow happened, it’s not Bill Clinton’s fault that GOP voters responded, “Hey, I like what that Trump guy has to say.”
As for why the Democratic leader would talk to a Republican at all, let’s not forget that Bill Clinton likes talking to everyone, especially about campaigns. Remember this?
In September 2012, when Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, spoke at the annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering in New York, Mr. Clinton gave him advice backstage about how to appear in command when facing off against Mr. Obama in their coming debates.
This wasn’t because Clinton wanted Romney to win; this was because Clinton likes giving political advice to people.
Jamison Foser joked yesterday, “I think if Bob Dole had called Clinton for advice in 1996, Clinton would’ve given it to him. Enthusiastically.”
I’m very much inclined to agree.