Mr. Encouragement

Donald Trump and Bill Clinton: Behind the ‘Bromance’

The former president is known to have a mischievous streak, but even he could not have foreseen how well his encouraging his pal The Donald to run for president would work out.

Photo Illustration by Alex Williams/The Daily Beast

Bill Clinton already had Donald Trump’s cellphone number.

The two have been buddies for years, which means Clinton also had Trump’s number in the larger sense.

Clinton knew exactly who he was talking to when he and Trump had a phone chat back when The Donald was deciding whether to run for president this time around.

Clinton had to know Trump would be certain to say things that would shake the race up and drive the more staid Republicans nuts.

After all, Trump was the guy who had once said Bill Clinton’s lies about Monica were just harmless fibs compared to George W. Bush’s lies about Iraq.

“Look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant and they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense,” Trump said back in 2008. “And yet Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”

A mouth like that could cause all kinds of trouble.

And Clinton has a zesty love for mischief.

Clinton reportedly did not come out and tell Trump to run during their talk, but he is said by The Washington Post to have been “upbeat and encouraging.”

“Clinton sounded curious about Trump’s moves toward a presidential bid and told Trump that he was striking a chord with frustrated conservatives and was a rising force on the right,” the Post reports.

Trump struck a chord all right, one that put him in the lead among the other Republican hopefuls to the surprise of everyone save perhaps Bill Clinton.

After Trump spoke of Mexican immigrants as rapists, Clinton refrained from condemning his buddy. Clinton simply said Trump was wrong to say the number of immigrants is growing when the stats say otherwise.

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Clinton then indulged in what might have been either a partiality for the rich or a little more mischief or maybe both. He said the worst possible thing a Clinton could say about somebody in the view of the right-wing crazies.

“He has been, believe it or not, uncommonly nice to Hillary and me,” Clinton said of Trump on The Daily Show last month. “He thought Hillary was a good senator for New York after 9/11 and he has actually, he’s one of the many Republicans who supported our foundation before they got the memo.”

A bit of Googling could quickly prove this to be true. Trump had donated generously to the foundation. He had also contributed to Hillary Clinton’s first presidential run and to her Senate campaign. He had invited the Clintons to his wedding in 2005, seating Hillary in the front pew at the ceremony even though Bill did not arrive until the reception.

Bill and Donald played golf on the Trump course in Westchester. Bill prefaced a mild response to Trump’s birther comments about President Obama by saying of his pal Donald, “I like him. And I love playing golf with him.”

Hey, even their daughters are friends.

But as Donald was rousing the right wing, Hillary was seeking to ingratiate herself with the left. She felt compelled to do more than shrug at his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

“I feel very bad and very disappointed with him and with the Republican Party for not responding immediately and saying, ‘Enough, stop it,’” she said in an interview.

Until then, Trump was on record saying Hillary had been an able secretary of state.

“I think she really works hard and I think she does a good job,” he had said. “Hillary Clinton I think is a terrific woman. I am biased because I have known her for years. I live in New York. She lives in New York. I really like her and her husband both a lot.”

On another occasion Trump had said Hillary was all but sure to get the Democratic nomination and likely to win the general election.

“If you don’t have the perfect candidate, Hillary will be president,” he declared.

But now the Republicans had a front-runner whom Trump considered to be perfection itself. He spoke as someone who really believes he can win.

“Hillary Clinton was the worst secretary of state in the history of the United States,” he now said. “There’s never been a secretary of state so bad as Hillary. The world blew up around us, we lost everything, including all relationships. There wasn’t one good thing that came out of that administration or her being secretary of state.”

The man with whom Bill Clinton is said to have been encouraging and upbeat during their little chat was now saying the Clintons would “kiss my ass” to get contributions. Trump spoke of Hillary’s “criminal” emails.

Maybe Bill Clinton is so smart that he foresaw such a turn to meanness.

More likely not.

No matter. Machiavelli could not have darkly plotted a better situation than Hillary Clinton now enjoys with the help of her husband’s love of mischief.

The stronger Trump is in Thursday’s debate, the weaker the other Republican candidates will appear.

And that makes Hillary Clinton all the more certain to be the ultimate victor.

Unless there is some crazy turn of events that surprises even Bill Clinton.