There is no point denying it — The Trump Show, the craziest comedy the God of TV has ever produced, has been fizzling out. Yes, the ‘Storming of the Capitol’ episode was a dramatic denouement. The absurd sight of ridiculously dressed QAnoners stumbling into an accidental attempt at a government coup was shockingly hilarious. But the violent scenes left people depressed. The divine scriptwriters appeared to have lost the plot, gone off the deep end, ‘jumped the shark’, as they say.
The networks tried to move forward by putting The Biden Show, a geriatric version of The West Wing, on prime time. But audiences so far aren’t sure how seriously they should take the storyline. Plus, we’re all aware, even if we haven’t been following, that The Trump Show is still rolling. It’s now in what could be its final season: ‘Impeachment 2.0: The Last Laugh’. Critics are not expecting much. Trump, the charismatic lead, has largely been written out of the script. Some of the characters, such as Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, have become too unbelievable. Fresh blood is needed.
So enter, stage wrong, Bruce Castor, Trump’s lovable klutz of an impeachment lawyer. His opening statement yesterday is rightly being hailed as a tour de farce. Castor was by turns bizarre, incoherent, and hilariously sub-pedestrian. His ineloquence was so powerful it turned into something almost magical: anti-eloquence.
Castor seemed to have no idea what he was saying. He left long pauses when he should have sped up, and vice-versa. It was hard to tell if he’d been paralyzed by nerves or whether he just thought he could wing it. Perhaps it was both. Perhaps he was speaking in tongues. At times Castor sounded just like President Joe Biden, in his stammering and his inability to make any sense.
‘People can be overcome by events,’ he said, sounding more than a little overcome by events himself. Then, apropos of nothing, he added:
Manslaughter is the killing of a human being upon sudden and intense provocation, but murder is done with cold blood and reflective thought. We are so understanding of the concept that people’s minds can be overpowered with emotion where logic does not immediately kick in that we have recognised examples that otherwise would be hearsay and said that no, when you’re driving down the street and you look over at your wife and you say ‘hey you know what? That guy is about to drive through the red light and kill that person’. You know what? Your wife can testify to what you said because even though it’s technically hearsay it’s an exception because it is the event living through the person. Why? No opportunity for reflective thought.
All hail, Bruce Almighty! His audience feebly hoped that he might have been moving towards a pertinent legal argument at that point. Not Bruce. He digressed into a marvellously irrelevant reminiscence from his childhood in the Castor family home in suburban Philadelphia. ‘Sen. Dirksen recorded a series of lectures that my parents had on a record. We still know what records are, right? The thing you put the needle down on and you play it. And here’s little Bruce, eight, nine, ten years old, listening to this back in the late sixties…’
Where was he going with this? Nobody knew, least of all him, apparently. He riffed on his own riffs. ‘It’s funny, this is an aside,’ he said, after 11 minutes, even though he hadn’t made a single clear point.
On and on Bruce went, dazzling the senators with the elasticity of his rambling. Perhaps the greatest moment was when, 25 minutes in, he decided to explain his own editing process:
If we go down the road that my very worthy adversary here, Mr Raskin, asks you to go down, the floodgates will open… instead of floodgates, I was going to say originally it will ‘release the whirlwind’, which is a Biblical reference. But I subsequently learned since I got here that that particular phrase has been taken, so I figured I’d better change it to floodgates. But the political pendulum will shift one day…
It was a masterclass. ‘I worked in this building 40 years ago. I got lost then and I still do,’ confessed Bruce, winningly. His triumph was sealed.
By the time he sat down, he’d become a viral star. The spectacular badness of his performance was neatly offset by Trump’s other impeachment lawyer, David Schoen, who played the relative straight man; any more madness might have undercut Bruce’s magnificent folly.
Soon after, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman gleefully reported that Trump was ‘enraged’ by his legal team’s woeful performance, especially Castor’s. But why? It was exactly what The Trump Show needed — a moment of surreal hilarity so intense it blows the mind.
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This article first appeared on The Spectator's US website.