The Simpsons are credited for predicting a lot of things over the course of the show's 31-year run—including the Trump presidency.
And according to one former writer, you can add "one of the GOP's defenses against impeachment" to that list.
In an op-ed published Sunday in The Washington Post, Bill Oakley—a writer and show-runner during the series' golden years in the '90s, who moved to Portland a decade ago and now has a burgeoning career as a fast-food critic—wrote that Republicans are using "the Sideshow Bob defense," which argues that a crime is not a crime if the perpetrator ultimately fails to commit said crime.
It's a reference to 1994's "Sideshow Bob Roberts," in which the titular former Krusty the Clown sidekick turned ex-con runs for mayor of Springfield. Early in the episode, Bob—voiced by Kelsey Grammer—dismisses his unsuccessful attempt to murder Bart Simpson, saying, "Attempted murder? Now honestly, what is that? Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?"
In the Post, Oakley, who wrote the episode along with Josh Weinstein, points out several recent real-world examples in which Trump apologists have tried to defend the president's "quid pro quo" with Ukraine using more or less the same argument. That includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ("Name me one thing that Ukraine did to release the money. Nothing"), the Wall Street Journal editorial page ("[I]t may turn out that while Mr. Trump wanted a quid-pro-quo policy ultimatum toward Ukraine, he was too inept to execute it") and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who told the Post, "[I]t'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."
"That the GOP has taken a cue from Sideshow Bob is shrewd, on one level," Oakley writes. "He's savvy enough to know that in Springfield—and, perhaps, elsewhere in the United States?—a middle-aged white male wearing a tie and saying anything with some conviction will be believed by at least 55 percent of people, especially if they already want to believe it."
Oakley writes that he doesn't believe the "Sideshow Bob defense" of Trump will be long-lived, however, since "it fails to stand up to even the slightest scrutiny." In fact, it even got shut down at last week's impeachment hearings, when Rep. Joaquin Castro half-seriously asked ambassador William B. Taylor, "Is attempted murder a crime?" Taylor answered in the affirmative.
Read the full op-ed here.