Hey, remember the ’90s? Someone pass me a Zima!

I’m old enough to remember when sensible people laughed mirthlessly at rightwing fantasy stories about Hillary Clinton instead of stating them as fact. But times, they are a-changing—and now all the names and faces from ’90s-era Clinton scandal mongering have returned.

This time, however, it’s not just the Rush Limbaughs of the world peddling these absurd conspiracy theories in the dark corners of the culture to which they were once deservedly relegated. Now, they’re coming straight from the Republican nominee for president.

And the media breathlessly report all of it, justifying the promulgation of discredited conspiracy theories by saying they’re just reporting on what a presidential candidate is saying.

But, as Joan Walsh rightly notes, just because Donald Trump is leading his campaign into the sewer, it doesn’t mean the media should follow.

Trump seems to feel no pain, or shame. But journalists do, or should. Vince Foster killed himself because of a crippling depression made worse by the anti-Clinton witch hunts of the media, particularly Travelgate, which he particularly lamented because an aide got reprimanded (he had asked his boss to put the blame on him instead.) Starr exonerated the Clintons of the trumped-up Travelgate charges, but that was four years after Foster died. … Rather than playing the helpless victims of Trump’s repeated con jobs, [journalists] need to up their game to do their jobs in the next six months.

And, naturally, Donald could also stop being a terrible person who rolls around in other people’s pain and trauma like a pig in mud. But that’s probably even less likely to happen than the media making the sage decision to stop indulging his noxious smears as legitimate campaigning.

The whole thing is infuriating to watch, but what saves me is the knowledge that it’s ultimately futile. Those attacks didn’t work two decades ago, and they’re not going to work now.

As Hillary herself said: “I just can’t say this often enough: If [Donald Trump] wants to go back to the playbook of the 1990s, if he wants to follow in the footsteps of those who have tried to knock me down and take me out of the political arena, I’m more than happy to have him do that.”

Frankly, there’s no more convincing argument for Hillary’s candidacy than the fact that the best her opponents have got to use against her are 20-year-old discredited conspiracy theories.

And as my colleague Peter Daou points out, all this dredging of old Clinton conspiracies is because Donald would rather make Bill Clinton his rival instead of running against — and losing to — a woman.

(AP Photo/Don Ryan)