Tuesday’s final Republican presidential debate of 2015 was a lot more interesting when you factored in Jeb Bush’s suggestion that Donald Trump may be secretly working for Hillary Clinton.
Jeb may have been kidding. And no one took him very seriously. But the Washington Post did a nice job of laying out how such a “House of Cards”-like scenario might work: “Politician A enters into a secret alliance with Politician B — a loose-tongued rival from another party with the chutzpah, the cash and the power to play the spoiler — to ensure Politician A’s election.”
There are lots of ways Trump could help Clinton: He could draw attention from other Republican candidates. He could distract Republican leaders by forcing them to consider scenarios where his popularity doesn’t fade. And he could lure his rivals into making xenophobic comments to match his own, which might make them less electable in a general election.
(Bear in mind, Trump wouldn’t have to know he was a plant to be a plant. He might — just might — have the kind of overconfidence to believe himself impervious to patsy-dom. Many patsies do.)
The Post has neatly outlined the circumstantial case that the Clintons enlisted Trump to help them: Hillary Clinton went to his wedding, Trump’s given to Bill Clinton’s charity, he used to be a Democrat, and — before Trump announced — Bill reportedly suggested he “play a larger role in the Republican Party.”
But the Post may have under-considered the fact that the kind of trickery Bush alleges actually happens in real life. It was hard not be entertained over the summer as conservatives propped up Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren as potential spoilers. (Waaaait, you wanted to say. You don’t really like them. You’re just trying to make things harder on Hillary.)
Sometimes the influence is more direct. In 2004, then-Republican operative Roger Stone aided Al Sharpton’s presidential campaign to troll the Democratic establishment. Democrats were appalled.
And maybe, if Jeb is right, took some notes.
Stone, as it happens, briefly worked for Trump this year, though presumably wouldn’t be part of any scheme to help elect Clinton. Which brings us to a what-if scenario, maybe a what-if too outrageous even for “House of Cards.”
What if Candidate B — the candidate who was supposed to soften up the opposition for Candidate A — ended up winning his party’s nomination? And running against A?
What if Candidate B wins?
Anyway. If was definitely something to keep you amused during the debate, in case you weren’t entertained enough watching the other candidates trying to out-Trump Trump. Which was just what Clinton wanted them to do.