Republicans’ Impeachment Strategy Resembles Sideshow Bob’s Defense, Says Former ‘Simpsons’ Writer Bill Oakley

'Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?' the character asked when accused of attempted murder.

a sideshow bob toy is on display
Ricardo Castro Santos / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 Cropped and Resized)

'Do they give a Nobel Prize for attempted chemistry?' the character asked when accused of attempted murder.

A former writer for The Simpsons says that the Republicans’ defense of Donald Trump — that his purported pressuring of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden wasn’t successful and, thus, wasn’t a crime — came straight from an episode of the show. Former writer Bill Oakley is calling the strategy the “Sideshow Bob” defense.

In an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post, Oakley noted that Trump’s defenders are claiming that there was no crime because Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine didn’t produce the result he wanted. Specifically, the defense claims that the purported quid pro quo Trump was after — that Trump would release hundreds of millions of dollars in military aide contingent upon the Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens — didn’t actually happen because the money was released anyway. Thus, there’s no need to carry out impeachment hearings.

For example, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked, rhetorically, “name me one thing that Ukraine did to release the money. Nothing.” Similarly, Nikki Haley claimed that she doesn’t “understand where the whole impeachment situation is coming from, because what everybody’s up in arms about didn’t happen.”

Oakley points out that this exact same defense was literally used in a cartoon.

Back in Season 6, Episode 5 of The Simpsons, Sideshow Bob, who had been convicted of attempted murder, called in to a radio show to argue for his release from prison so he could be mayor of Springfield. He tried to reason that since there was no actual murder, there was no crime.

“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?”

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Oakley then goes on to point out another parallel between Sideshow Bob’s defense and the Republicans’ new impeachment defense strategy. Namely, in much the same way that Sideshow Bob expected the easily-manipulated people of Springfield to fall for his scheme, Trump defenders expect their base, and perhaps the majority of the American people, to fall for it as well.

“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 said.

Oakley writes that he doesn’t expect the defense to stick — at least, not among Democrats in Congress. Oakley points to Texas’ Joaquin Castro, who asked Ambassador William Taylor if attempted murder is a crime, to which Taylor responded, while laughing, that it is a crime.