There’s a temptation among some to believe Americans have seen it all before. No matter how ridiculous our politics can get, no matter how outlandish an election, no matter how severe the dysfunction, there are those who will tell you there’s nothing politically new under the sun.
Those people are wrong. We’ve never seen anything like this.
Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Russia to help find the missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server.“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump proposed from a podium at his Doral Resort. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The Republican presidential hopeful added that he doesn’t believe Russia was responsible for hacking DNC materials – there’s overwhelming evidence that suggests Trump is wrong – but the GOP candidate said that if Russia did steal Democratic documents, he “hopes” the Russians have Clinton’s emails.
Let’s be very clear about what happened this morning. The Republican candidate for president held a press conference in which he urged Vladimir Putin’s espionage services to help sabotage the American election and put Trump in the White House.
No, seriously. That’s the level of genuine insanity that we’ve reached. Against the backdrop of allegations that Russia is already trying to intervene in the U.S. presidential race on Trump’s behalf, Donald J. Trump took the next step towards true madness today, publicly calling on a foreign government to commit a felony against his American rival on his behalf.
There is literally nothing in the American tradition that’s similar to this. Nothing. Trump is taking his candidacy, his party, and his country into uncharted waters.
The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, a conservative Fox News contributor, asked this morning, “How can any Republican support a candidate who openly hopes for foreign cyberattacks on a political opponent?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’d love to hear Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, and others defend their choice in candidates.
Remember, as far as Trump is concerned, those Clinton emails contain sensitive intelligence. In other words, the Republican nominee this morning said he “hopes” Putin’s government gains access to classified government materials because it might help advance Trump’s personal ambitions.
How did we get to this point? Why is this man a major-party nominee for the nation’s highest office? Since when does the Republican Party think it’s acceptable to appeal to rival states to help sabotage a campaign opponent ahead of an election?
Also consider what we’re learning about Trump’s perspective on intelligence. As far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing wrong with urging an unfriendly foreign state to commit a cybercrime against an American for political purposes. If Trump heads the U.S. executive branch, and has some authority over the CIA and NSA, is anyone prepared to argue that he’ll be restrained and responsible?
What more could Trump do to convince people about the dangers of his candidacy? How is this not a disqualifying moment?
Try to imagine – no, really, take a moment to think about – how significant a scandal it would be if Hillary Clinton publicly urged Russia to do her a favor, target a GOP rival, and help her win an election. How quickly would her career in public life end? How many congressional hearings and investigations would Republicans demand?
I’ve been watching this bizarre presidential race every day since it began. It’s never been scarier than it is right now.