Chait speech: It didn't start with Donald J. Trump!


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.

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.
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!

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.


  1. It depends on what the definition of "is" is.

    "Hillary Clinton for months has downplayed the FBI investigation into her private email server and practices as a mere “security inquiry.”

    But when asked Wednesday by FNC about Clinton's characterization of the bureau's probe, FBI Director James Comey said he doesn’t know what "security inquiry" means -- adding, “We’re conducting an investigation. … That’s what we do.”

    1. FNC disreputable cast member Catherine Herridge did the honors on this one, misquoting Comey and mischaracterizing Hillary Clinton's characterization.

      The case actually officially started as a "security referral", quite obviously Comey was being coy.

    2. Explain again how HTC didn't totally mischaracterize what the FBI was doing with her server and how Catherine Herridge managed to get Comey to behave any differently when it comes to HTC perfidy?

    3. Dave the Guitar PlayerMay 12, 2016 at 12:18 PM

      You do realize that all of this HTC stuff is not relevant here? Please start your own blog.

    4. @Dave

      You are correct. It should be HRC.

    5. Cyrano you've already proven you don't know crap. I'd shut my mouth if I were you.

    6. @2:13

      Your callow castigation would be better directed at FBI Director Comey. He is the one saying HRC's characterization of the investigation is bollocks.

    7. cicero, like everybody else Comey knows what "security inquiry" means, the phrase that Clinton used once, last Sunday. Comey was playing a game with Fox cast member Herridge who wanted to push a narrative that would reflect poorly on Clinton. That is Herridge's only goal, and she is a clown.

      Another Fox clown, Napolitano said this "This is a criminal's an inquiry into whether or not there was a conspiracy to commit espionage by taking state secrets". Oops he slipped and called it "an inquiry", but he also nuttily thinks it's a criminal investigation into the possibility that Clinton is a spy and traitor.

      Actually as it turns out the word "inquiry" means "an official investigation" and when Comey was asked if this was a criminal investigation he declined to call it such.

      So what we have here is an undefined investigation (also known as an inquiry) that started out officially as a "security referral", making Clinton's characterization from last Sunday fairly accurate, meanwhile Comey refuses to call it "criminal", so Herridge applys pressure to Comey to make it negative, Comey winks at Herridge and feigns not knowing what "security inquiry" means, and Herridge runs on tv to breathlessly put a negative spin on a ridiculous nothing burger.

  2. Oddly, given his own approach in this post, Somerby in 2000 was troubled by Weisberg's repetitiveness:

    "Weisberg, too tired to read his e-mails, is also too lazy to coin new invective...October's "feral animal" was now April's "crazed weasel." Weisberg's startling imagery was unchanged, and so was his basic complaint."

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerMay 12, 2016 at 12:20 PM

      Bob repeats because you do not listen. Weisberg repeats because he thinks his insults are clever.

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  4. I hadn't visited this site in over a year and was wondering if Bob was still upset about Gore not becoming president. I have my answer now. Not that there is anything wrong with still being upset and I am impressed he can recall so many singular events from the past and find a way to weave it into modern times. Again not that there is anything wrong with that.