A couple of years ago, the sportswriter Bill Simmons coined the term Tyson Zone. This describes a celebrity whose actions so regularly go over the line that there is nothing they can do or say that would still surprise people. It’s named for the former boxer, Mike Tyson, but also could be applied to individuals such as Dennis Rodman, Randy Quaid, Lindsay Lohan, or Kanye West.
Donald Trump has entered the Tyson Zone.
To be sure, Trump has been dancing around the edges of the zone for a while – for example, when he bragged about the size of his penis, when he mocked the looks of Heidi Cruz, when he suggested a federal judge of Mexican descent could not judge him fairly.
But on Wednesday, with his call for Russia to hack the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton and then release them to the world, Trump has fully entered the zone. To be clear, his exact words were, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. You’ll be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Rather than decry clear evidence of Russian efforts to influence a national election, Trump is inviting, even encouraging, Moscow to interfere directly in the presidential race. He is actively and publicly conspiring with a foreign government to conduct espionage against an American citizen – who also happens to be his opponent in the presidential campaign. He is calling into question his loyalty to the country he has been nominated to lead.
I’m not sure this qualifies as treason, but I know this: No US politician and certainly no presidential candidate has ever said anything like this before. In any normal political environment, these comments would be disqualifying for a presidential candidate. Of course, this presupposes that Trump understands why his comments are so problematic – or even cares. The fact that these questions even need to be posed raises even more questions about the basic fitness of Trump to be president.
Since announcing for the presidency, Trump has praised Vladimir Putin, talked about loosening security guarantees for NATO allies, and stripped language from the GOP platform that could be perceived as hostile to Russia. He employs as a campaign manager a man who previously worked for a Putin ally in Ukraine. And before he sought the nation’s highest office he was reliant on Russian financing for his business empire. There is so much smoke here that questions — from non-tin foil hat sources — are being raised about Trump being in cahoots with the Russian government.
Marinate on that for a second.
But while we joke about this and the sheer insanity of Trump’s comments, this is no longer funny (and truth be told it never really has been).
Donald Trump is a national security threat to the United States. Period. He’s temperamentally and intellectually unfit to be president. Period. If he’s elected to the highest office in the land, I’m not convinced that America’s 240-year experiment in democracy can survive. It takes only the greatest possible cognitive dissonance to ignore this reality. I say all this with the necessary caveat that Trump is running the most racist, nativist, xenophobic, and fascist major party presidential campaign in modern American history.
Today’s comments are so far over the pale that it’s almost impossible to do justice to them. And keep in mind it’s only July. There are still more than three months to go until the election and one can certainly expect Trump to not just venture more frequently into the Tyson Zone, but to take up residence there.
At what point will Republicans who have endorsed Trump – for example, foreign policy hawks like John McCain, Marco Rubio, and Tom Cotton and GOP leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell – come to their senses and recognize that he’s not only a threat to the country, but that he is the antithesis of everything they claim to believe? Is the pursuit of political power; is their tribal affiliation as Republicans so strong, is their hatred of Hillary Clinton so great, that they are prepared to sit back and allow this man to enjoy their support?
The more this campaign continues, those who have enabled and excused Trump’s behavior will never be able to live down what they’ve done and what they’ve allowed to occur.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.