Or with Trump's supporters: We're inclined to think that Jonathan Chait has done something unwise, perhaps even dumb.
In this fiery post, he bats Trump voters all around for being so goddamned dumb.
We think that's a fairly dumb thing to do. In part, let us tell you why:
We think a vote for Candidate Trump is extremely unwise. But the dumbness and the insults didn't start with Candidate Trump, or even with Trump's voters.
The culture of dumbness got its start long ago. The genius Chait didn't say boo.
It didn't start with Trump! We discussed that point in Monday's post, but we're still having flashbacks about it.
This morning, we found ourselves thinking about that astonishing pair of columns by Mary McGrory. The columns appeared in the Washington Post in October/November 1999. Chait didn't say a word.
Candidates Gore and Bradley had just staged their first debate. They discussed their dueling health care plans and a range of other issues.
In truth, it was a smart debate. Pundit reaction wasn't smart.
McGrory's first column about the debate appeared in the Sunday Post. She advanced the culture of insult and invective, the culture Trump is expanding.
This is the way that column began. The irate obvious genius Chait kept his trap shut tight:
MCGRORY (10/31/99): Vice President Albert Gore came to his fateful encounter with newly menacing challenger Bill Bradley carrying heavy baggage. He was wearing an outfit that added to his problems when he stepped onstage at Dartmouth College: a brown suit, a gunmetal blue shirt, a red tie—and black boots.In her next column, McGrory continued to complain about Gore's "distracting new suit, a three-button brown affair that caused much nostalgia for navy-blue serge." She never got around to discussing those health care plans!
Was it part of his reinvention strategy? Perhaps it was meant to be a ground-leveling statement—"I am not a well-dressed man." It is hard to imagine that he thought to ingratiate himself with the nation's earliest primary voters by trying to look like someone seeking employment at a country music radio station. Maybe it was the first step in shedding his Prince Albert image.
He had other personal issues on his mind. It was plain as he plunged into pre-game activities. The authorities dragged the two rivals onto the stage a good 20 minutes before air time. Gore has been programmed to relax, which is still a reach for him. While he and Bradley were seated on high stools looking uneasy, Gore seized the moment to demonstrate what a take-charge type he is, and how eager he was to begin the "debate" he had long avoided with the former senator from New Jersey. "Ask some questions," he said in the rallying tone of the camp counselor getting the sing-along going.
McGrory is no longer living, but she was long a sacred figure within the guild which now complains about Trump's insulting ways.
That culture didn't start with Trump. It started with McGrory.
To a remarkable degree, the pundit corps' treatment of that debate derived from a real-time post by Jacob Weisberg at Slate. This may be the most remarkable part of a startling post, a post which was widely plagiarized:
"Gore arrived on stage like some sort of feral animal who had been locked in a small cage and fed on nothing but focus groups for several days. Upon release, he began to scamper furiously in every direction at once."
Today, Weisberg seems upset with the low culture Candidate Trump has unloosed.
We lunched al fresco with Jake in L.A. in mid-August the very next summer. Incomparably, we acted on Father Flanagan's famous belief that there are no bad scribes, a judgment with which we agree.
That said, Chait accepted this deeply destructive culture when it was being invented within his own ridiculous guild. Like a feral animal released from a cage, he's happy to unload today on those damned Trump voters.
This culture didn't start with Trump. It started with McGrory and Weisberg and many others, and with the silence of lambs.
April was the cruelest month: That April, Jake identified the type of feral animal about which we'd already been warned. He said Candidate Gore was planning to "rip into the flesh" of Candidate Bush "like a crazed weasel."
Jake was on a roll that day. According to Jake, Gore was "scurrilous" "brutal," "cold-blooded," "nasty," "ruthless" and "remorseless," with a "killer instinct." Needless to say, he was also a "panderer" who would "do anything to win."
We issued this incomparable warning. Like a reptile asleep in the sun, Chait didn't move, react, stir or respond in any discernible way.