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Column: Trump's lies and bluster distracted the press in 2016. Can journalists do better this time?

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President Trump’s attack machine — the one that tells us who is unattractive or creepy, who is stupid or senile, who is corrupt or dangerous or traitorous or ought to be tossed in prison — is gearing up for the final stretch of the 2020 campaign.

The crazy talk and baseless assertions are reaching new levels of hysteria. Joe Biden has dementia! He’s a pedophile! He’s a socialist! Obamagate, which you probably never heard of before last week, was the “biggest political crime in American history by far”! Nancy Pelosi is “a sick woman” with “a lot of mental problems.”

It’s all part of the by now familiar Trump playbook: Inflame the base with outrageous charges, muddy the minds of the undecided with false equivalencies, fashion whole conspiracies out of the thinnest of facts, retweet the libels of others. Then add some incendiary language and superlatives — the worst ever, the most incompetent, the biggest crime, the most awful scandal — and poof, you’ve got a strategy.

It’s shocking how effectively these tactics were deployed in 2016. Remember the Hillary Clinton email server? Trump actually assailed Clinton for corruption “on a scale we have never seen before” while the credulous crowds shouted “lock her up, lock her up.”

And what did the press do? We........

© Los Angeles Times