The Simpson’s television writers know satire when they see it, even if they can’t define it. But who knew Donald Trump’s impeachment defenders would seriously advance an impeachment defense just like The Simpson’s character “Sideshow Bob.”
Well, maybe that’s not so strange, given the source. But it is seriously absurd, says Bill Oakley, a TV writer and producer who was show runner for “The Simpsons” during its seventh and eighth seasons.
In a column for The Washington Post, Oakley pointed out the “rhetorical absurdity” of a TV joke that now forms the basis of a legal defense advanced “in all seriousness” by the GOP and its Fox News and media fellow travelers.
Oakley knows the Sideshow Bob joke well. He wrote the script, with co-writer Josh Weinstein, for the 1994 episode, titled “Sideshow Bob Roberts.”
By way of background, Bob is in prison for attempting to murder Bart Simpson. From his prison cell, He’s trying to launch a grass-roots campaign for Springfield mayor.
Bob calls into a radio show, hosted by Rush Limbaugh knockoff Birch Barlow to decry the unfairness of being convicted of “attempted murder.”
The joke goes like this:
“Convicted of a crime I didn’t even commit. Hah! Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry? Do they?”
Republican lawmakers, Fox News talking heads, like Sean Hannity, and no less than the right-leaning editorial page of The Wall Street Journal have repeatedly advanced the same argument to defend Trump.
“Many people in the Administration opposed the Giuliani effort, including some in senior positions at the White House. This matters because it may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it,” The Journal opined.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), one of Trump’s most rabid supporters, has said the same thing, along with former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, according to New York magazine.
“There was no heavy demand insisting that something had to happen. So it’s hard for me to understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from, because what everybody’s up in arms about didn’t happen.” In the end, “the aid flowed,” she insisted.
The Republican talking point was apparently widely circulated among Trump’s fervent supporters who never bothered to think it through.
“On the surface, the Sideshow Bob defense might sound reasonable to the majority of dolts in Springfield, U.S.A,” Oakley writes, with one caveat.
“The citizens of Springfield are, as a whole, dummies — because it is a comedy show.”
If that’s the case what does that say about Trump supporters, who have lit up the Twittersphere with the same absurd assertion.
“Ultimately, though, Sideshow Bob’s lies are exposed by Bart and Lisa, in a plot we basically cribbed from the Watergate scandal,” Oakley writes.
In a scene that can only be described as prophetic, Sideshow Bob is put on trial and explains why he deceived the town. Mind you, this was 1994.
“Because you need me, Springfield. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this: to protect you from yourselves.”
The Washington post tallied up GOP defenses and found 17 different claims that attempt to justify the president’s actions.
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