The Fox sitcom allegedly predicted the Syrian civil war—in an episode that was reputedly part of a massive international conspiracy to foment mayhem in the Arab world. And The Simpsons supposedly predicted 9/11, the future of technology, the Greece-Eurozone crisis, the Ebola outbreak, and the trillion-dollar coin, to name a few.
In the March 2000 episode “Bart to the Future,” Bart Simpson gets a glimpse into his future: His sister Lisa is president of the United States and has “inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump.”
Secretary Milhouse Van Houten breaks the bad news to President Simpson that the country is broke and that much of its budget woes can be blamed on the Trump administration’s misguided investment in “our nation’s children.”
The episode aired after Trump had been mulling a run for the White House for the 2000 election. (He ultimately decided to stay out of the race.) Fifteen years later—with 2016 Trumpmania in full swing—the Simpsons team is feeling somewhat, if jokingly, vindicated.
“Well, we were not entirely wrong,” Dan Greaney, who wrote the episode, told The Daily Beast. (Greaney also coined the term “embiggen,” for all you Simpsons nerds out there.) “That’s the America we know and love, doing what it does.”
Greaney says he had completely forgotten about the episode until it was cited—by The Washington Post, Mashable, and Deadline, among other news outlets—as yet another example of the Simpsons writing crew’s uncanny ability to see into the future. (“Entertainment Weekly said it was the worst episode in the history of the show, [so] I was hoping to have an opportunity to have the episode reevaluated, anyway,” he said.)
“[President Trump] came out of this show’s take on America—the sort of thing America would kind of do,” Greaney added. “And this was when Trump was, frankly, less negative than he is now. He was a little more lovable back then, before the birther thing and all that.”
And why, according to the show, would a Trump presidency leave the country dead broke? “That’s how his presidency went wrong in our imagination: He overspent, he went nuts!” Greaney said. “Our Trump was a builder.”
There’s something else about “Bart to the Future” that Trump, now the Republican presidential front-runner, might appreciate, given his relentless campaign-trail China-mongering. Late in the episode, when President Simpson meets with America’s angry creditor nations, a representative from China is seated at the table. To buy the Simpson administration more time to pay down its debt, Bart plays a mind game with the Chinese:
“Our whole maneuver that we used to deal with China is Bart appealing to China to be cool,” Greaney said. “If America follows Bart’s plan, everything will be fine.”
As for Trump’s 2016 campaign—which has been defined largely by his controversial statements on Mexicans, women, and POWs—Greaney says he’s disappointed and that he doesn’t see as much comedy in it as he thinks he ought to.
“It’s just not as fun as it should be,” he lamented. He also has some advice for the GOP front-runner:
“He should go back to being the lovable, blustering Trump of 2000, not the polarizing one of 2015. More bluster, less peevishness.”