Probably back around 1992, on Crossfire, in the middle of a particularly heated discussion of something or other, culture-warrior, former Nixon speech writer, and third party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan called co-host Michael Kinsley a worm.
Kinsley, as I remember the moment, sputtered in shock and outrage. but the insult stood.
Annoyed as I still was that Kinsley had hired Charles Krauthammer at The New Republic instead of me only a few years earlier (a story for which, like "The Giant Rat of Sumatra," I do not yet feel the world is ready), I nevertheless shouted at the TV, "No! Don't say that! Tell him, 'Gosh, Pat, normally I'd laugh a remark like that off, but when it comes from someone who's on a first-name basis with things that crawl out from under rocks, I suppose I have to take it at least somewhat seriously.'"
Philosophers used to call that rhetorical ploy the tu quoque (Latin for "you as well") or, in other contexts, the argument ad hominem (Latin again, for attacking the character of the speaker instead of the substance of his argument). In the early 1900s, its vulgar equivalent was "So's your old man!" Somewhat later, it devolved into "I know you are, but what am I?" And sometime after that it became "Your momma."
Or, as was once famously said of the sleazy Republican Senator from New York, "Being attacked on ethics by Al D'Amato is like being called ugly by a frog."
Which brings us to the peculiar and disappointing news that Dennis Miller yesterday called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "irrelevant."
If anyone else had said it, my advice to Reid would be to dismiss the characterization out of hand. But when you're called "irrelevant" by Dennis Miller--a man who's in a professional position to know irrelevance when he sees it--well, gosh, maybe Senator Reid should at least give it some thought.