It started long before that: Donald J. Trump got hammered quite hard in yesterday's Washington Post.
The paper's weekly Fact-Checker post discussed his serial misstatements. Dana Milbank hammered him for his serial obscenity.
George Will savaged him for his recent Lee Harvey Oswald play and for talking about his own penis. In their featured editorial, the editors said that Speaker Ryan could never endorse Trump in good faith.
Kathleen Parker also weighed in. In the face of Trump's bizarre behavior and crazy proposals, she seemed to say that the GOP is sinking beneath the waves.
In closing, she said what you see below. As a history lesson, we think the highlighted passage is highly misleading or wrong:
PARKER (5/8/16): McCain seemingly has forgiven Trump’s remark that he was a war hero only because he was captured. “I like people that weren’t captured,” said the anti-hero who managed to avoid service and once compared his navigation of the sexually risky 1960s to “sort of like the Vietnam era.”In a famous book from the early 1960s, we learned that black history started "before the Mayflower." We'll offer a similar construct:
This is the man who would become commander in chief.
Meanwhile, we’re told, the party that adopted Trump without really knowing him is suffering an identity crisis and facing a moment of truth.
Phooey. The GOP began digging its own grave years ago and dropped one foot in when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. With Trump’s almost-certain nomination, the other foot has followed.
Trumpism started long before Palin or Trump.
Trumpism started decades ago. It started in the mainstream press corps, not just in the conservative world or the GOP.
Those columns in yesterday's Washington Post came from the right, the semi-left and the center. But they all came from the mainstream press, which is one place where Trumpism started.
Those columns savaged Trump for his crazy attacks, his ugly insults and his ridiculous factual claims. But these were all basic parts of mainstream press culture long before Candidate Trump or Candidate Palin threw their hats in the ring.
If Trumpism started long before Trump, where can we say it began? In many ways, the 1988 White House campaign involved major breaks from the past. But let's recall a bit of the history which started in 1992:
Trumpism was already underway with The Clinton Chronicles, the crazy, ugly film which detailed the many murders in which the Clintons took part. Jerry Falwell pimped it all around.
This was the Clinton-era version of birtherism. The mainstream press corps largely averted its gaze.
Trumpism was already underway in 1994 when Rush Limbaugh tried to tie first lady Hillary Clinton to the death of Vince Foster. The mainstream press looked away.
In 1992, Gennifer Flowers held a crazy press conference to discuss her torrid, twelve-year affair with Bill Clinton. When her essay appeared in the National Enquirer, it was filled with embarrassing factual errors.
Basic parts of her thrilling story were embarrassingly wrong. (She earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for her thrilling tale.) It also turned out that Flowers had made a string of bizarre claims about her personal life and her career.
But so what? By 1998, the mainstream press had decided to ignore all that. During the year of Lewinsky, they rehabilitated Flowers, vouching for the obvious accuracy of her wonderful claims.
As a result, Flowers went on Hardball to spend a half hour discussing the Clintons' many murders. Even as they vouched for Flowers, the press corps averted its gaze from this disgraceful travesty. Meanwhile, Flowers' half hour on Hardball had been so crazy that she was booked to do a full hour on Hannity & Colmes, where her conduct was even more disgraceful.
The press corps looked away. Trumpism was now an obvious part of their own appalling culture.
In early 1999, the mainstream press corps finally adopted a leadership role in the growth and spread of Trumpism. They began inventing crazy claims about Candidate Gore, Clinton's chosen successor.
(Al Gore said he invented the Internet! Al Gore hired a woman to teach him how to be a man!)
Fresh from gushing over Flowers, Chris Matthews played the leading role in this deranged twenty-month war. By now, mainstream "journalists" had become the leading purveyors of the growing Trumpism. They only relinquished this leading role when Trump, the real thing, came along.
Are ugly, disordered insults a defining part of Trumpism? During this entire period, Maureen Dowd was the industry leader.
For our money, Dowd's insulting columns in 2004 about Judith Steinberg, Howard Dean's wife, represented the bottom of this particular barrel. But her gong-show insults were routine throughout the period, although her bosom pal Matthews wasn't far behind.
(Gore is "a man-woman," Matthews often said. "Al Gore would lick the bathroom floor to become president!" In September 2000, Matthews formally apologized for the second of those repeated insults. At that time, Candidate Gore was pulling away in the polls.)
By the midpoint of the last decade, we liberals were formally involved in creating this noxious culture. Keith Olbermann would bring Michael Musto, his smutty friend, on the air to savage The Others, especially young blond women.
As became clear in the "Journolist" debacle, leading liberals were talking about Olbermann's "misogyny" during this period. But they were only willing to do so in private. In public, they shut their traps about the Trumpism which was now in their midst.
Once Barack Obama reached the White House, birtherism began taking hold. It was the Obama-era equivalent of the Clinton murder tales.
In 2011, a certain famous figure became the nation's birther king. Trumpism finally had its name, though it had been active for decades.
So far, we've only discussed the "ugly insult/crazy attack" aspect of Trumpism. Concerning the crazy factual claims which are another key part of this lunatic culture, they too had long been a part of mainstream press corps culture.
Long before Trump, the mainstream press corps played active and passive roles in the spread of all kinds of nonsense and disinformation concerning major policy questions. For our money, the steady stream of disinformation about the Social Security trust fund is the all-time classic example, but there are plenty of others.
"The money isn't there—we've already spent it!" "The trust fund is nothing but a bunch of worthless IOUs!" For decades, voters were misled in this carefully scripted way. Journalists played active roles or averted their gaze, concerning this and concerning a range of major policy topics.
Black history started "before the Mayflower?" Trumpism started long before Palin or Trump came along.
It got its start within the guild of those who are now assailing Trump. Trump took their own culture and ramped it up. For unknown reasons, these mainstream Trumpists seem angry to see him take the whips from their hands.
Sometimes, history takes a long time. The culture called Trumpism got its start long before Trump.