But also describes the press corps: We happen to know Karen Tumulty just a tiny tad.
We even lunched with her one-on-one once. We know her a tad, and we like her. We even admire her for something she did.
Back in the day—roughly speaking, back at the birth of liarism—Tumulty was involved in several consequential news reports about Vice President and then Candidate Gore. In our view, she was perhaps at fault in one of these instances. We thought she and Michael Duffy got over their skis in their report for Time, in November 1999, about Naomi Wolf.
That report helped launch the disgracefully ugly and stupid "month of Wolf," which consumed the small minds of the mainstream press all through November 1999. For a reasonably full account of that episode, we recommend Chapter 5 at our companion site.
Prepare to shower when done.
In our view, the Tumulty/Duffy report for Time displayed some poor journalistic judgment. Having said that, why do we even admire Tumulty? In late 1997, she was one of only two reporters who actually heard what Al Gore said about the feature film, Love Story, in a rambling conversation which lasted more than two hours during a late night plane ride.
Here's what happened next:
Tumulty's colleagues began to turn Gore's pointless remark into the first example in the "liarism" crusade they would pursue for three years. When they did that, Tumulty did something few journalists ever do:
She pushed back against her colleagues in the mainstream press.
Tumulty had actually heard what Gore actually said. She gave interviews saying that her colleagues were being dumb and unfair in their brainless screeching about his pointless remark. (Maureen Dowd devoted two columns to the nonsense. Inevitably, Frank Rich savaged Gore in another.) And her opposition didn't end there. In March 1999, when her colleagues began to beat the Love Story drum all over again, she told us, telephonically, that we could quote her on how stupid it was.
"Liarism" wasn't the first of the recent crusades which have made our discourse so dangerously stupid. Before that, we had "murderism," the endless insistence that Bill and Hillary Clinton were connected to endless murders.
(The ludicrous, disgraceful Candidate Trump was singing that song all over again when he posted this tweet in December 2013: "How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama's 'birth certificate' died in plane crash today. All others lived." In that stupid, ugly tweet, Trump was connecting his own birtherism to the earlier murderism. For a news report about the plane crash, click here.)
In the 1990s, the American public discourse was assaulted by murderism. Later in that decade, the virus of liarism sent George W. Bush to the White House.
Starting in 2011, Donald J. Trump established himself as king of birtherism. Only now, at this very late date, the mainstream press—and the liberal world—have begun pushing back against it.
Of those three viruses, we the liberals have been able to identify only one. To this day, we seem to have no earthly idea that birtherism was preceded by the two earlier viruses.
The cause of our blindness is fairly clear, but let's leave that for another day. Today, let's discuss Tumulty's piece in today's Washington Post.
Tumulty writes about Candidate Trump; her front-page piece is called a POLITICAL DEBRIEF. Below, you see the (accurate) way her essay begins.
Tumulty is describing Trump. But she's also describing the mainstream press, including its internal brigade of career liberal enablers:
TUMULTY (9/17/16): What makes Donald Trump such a singular figure—in modern politics and, perhaps, ever—is his refusal to take ownership of the outrageous things he has said and done.We can't say that's wrong. Fairly clearly, Candidate Trump does "refuse to take ownership of the outrageous things he has said and done." Fairly clearly, he does "blame others for his [outrageous] actions."
It is the essence of his leadership style, the defiance that exasperates his foes and makes his supporters love him all the more. The one thing that is consistent about him is inconsistency.
Not only does Trump refuse to apologize, he blames others for his own actions.
We can't say that Tumulty's wrong in that description of Trump. But when we read her piece today, we couldn't help thinking this:
Those are also good descriptions of the mainstream press corps. Especially of its destructive work over these murderous decades.
As she continues, Tumulty describes the "funhouse-mirror fashion" in which Trump behaved yesterday. That said, our culture has been deep in the funhouse at least since the rise of murderism, a long, viral episode led by the late Jerry Falwell.
When he became king of murderism, Falwell was every bit as prominent as Donald Trump was when he made himself king of the birthers. Within the conservative world, Falwell was very prominent.
It was the start of the abject craziness which is now so common. But the press corps largely ignored what Falwell did at that time. In August 1999, Chris Matthews gave Gennifer Flowers a full half hour to talk about all those murders on the funhouse cable show, Hardball.
(At that time, the program was devoted to crazy attacks on both Clintons and especially on Candidate Gore. You've never seen a single journalist describe the astonishing conduct in which Matthews engaged all through 1999 and 2000.)
Murderism was a product of the crackpot right. Liarism was a product of the mainstream press corps.
Their liarism went on for years. Virtually alone among mainstream journalists, Tumulty actually challenged it, especially at the time of its birth in 1997.
The press corps' ludicrous liarism eventually sent Bush to the White House. To this day, the mainstream press and its many enablers have "refused to take ownership of the outrageous things it said and did."
You've never seen a journalist describe the twenty-month war against Candidate Gore. Even worse, the liberal world can barely bring itself to notice the fact that these earlier viruses existed.
We act as if our funhouse era started with birtherism. Manifestly, it didn't. We'd been locked in the funhouse for years when birtherism began.
Today, the press corps continues to blame Hillary Clinton for its own actions over the past several years. They had to beat the emails to death! The Clintons made them do it!
Until this very week, these very same people walked away from Candidate Trump's birtherism. He told them he didn't want to discuss it. Chastened, they slithered away. They had emails to flog!
As a nation, we've been in the funhouse for twenty-plus years. We've suffered at least three major viral episodes in that hall of mirrors. But to this day, the Jonathan Chaits won't tell you the truth about the way this cultural illness has worked. Read his most recent post about the press and ponder the role of this kind of denial in the culture's downward spiral.
(Truly, Chait is amazing when it comes to discussing the press.)
Murderism was a virus. The liberal world ignored it.
After that, we got liarism. It sent George Bush to the White House. Many of our most prominent liberals played active roles in that scam.
The current assault on Candidate Clinton began in the summer of 2014. She tried to tour in support of a book about foreign policy.
The Diane Sawyers of the world weren't going to talk about a subject like that, not even in a critical way. Instead, they flogged her speaking fees. Diane Sawyer told the world that Clinton was too rich!
We liberals accepted all that. Meanwhile, as they pounded away at the speaking fees and then at the endlessly troubling emails, the mainstream press corps averted its gaze from Trump's birtherism. He stamped his foot and they ran!
This week, the mainstream press has finally managed to notice the third of these viral episodes. How hopeless is our own tribe? So hopeless that we still seem to think this episode was the first!
Cable news drinking game: Candidate Obama released his official birth certificate in 2008. As you watch cable news this weekend, see how many cable stars seem to say something different, in line with inaccurate TrumpSpeak.
Drain a glass each time they do. By Sunday, you'll have no idea what happens on Meet the Press.