Bill O’Reilly had a long discussion with former President Bill Clinton tonight, with many predictable moments: O’Reilly hammered the prez about the border with Mexico; the prez responded that the economy drew people north. O’Reilly slammed Obamacare; Clinton defended it. O’Reilly said that President Obama had a fifty-fifty chance of getting re-elected; Clinton, noting that Obama was “out there running against himself right now,” said he had a better shot than that.

Then O’Reilly slipped in a touch of interviewing magic: “You worked with Newt Gingrich. Do you respect him?” It was a quick, simple question and it caught Clinton a bit off guard, to judge from his stunned response.

I respect his ability to think and do.

The former president eked out the following continuation: “I eventually hammered out a really productive relationship with him.”

O’Reilly kept at it, going macho: “You respect him as a man?” Somehow, Clinton didn’t reject the question. That was the highlight of the discussion, which slid into a lame back-and-forth about O’Reilly’s media conspiracy theories at the end.

In a subsequent segment, O’Reilly got Gingrich on the show and put the “respect” question to him regarding Clinton. Gingrich said he respected the former prez and explained why Clinton approached his assessment of Gingrich with such reluctance: “I don’t think he wants to give you a quote that we could use in an ad next summer to try to draw moderate Democrats away from President Obama.”