If you want to see how dramatically President Donald Trump’s fortunes have turned in just four months, simply compare “Saturday Night Live” opening sketches from the season finale in May to the one this weekend, which kicked off the new season.
The May 18 season finale depicted Trump, as played by Alec Baldwin, sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, boasting, “I’m on cruise control for a second term, and there’s nothing the Democrats in Congress can do about it.” Trump was so gleeful, he literally broke into song, singing a parody of Queen’s song, “Don’t Stop Me Now.”
Soon, other Trump allies, such as “Vice President Mike Pence” and “Sarah Sanders,” who at the time was still Trump’s press secretary, joined in the sketch singing Trump’s praises. There was even an appearance by “Kanye West” cheering Trump, and “Rudy Giuliani” joined the fun by playing a celebratory guitar solo. And, in a line that now seems foreboding, Sanders sang, “Just try and impeach.”
Flash forward to Saturday night, in which Trump’s reversal of fortunes is captured perfectly by the cold open. Sitting behind the same desk in the Oval Office, Trump isn’t celebrating – he’s freaking out. Trump calls “Giuliani” complaining, “It’s the greatest presidential harassment of all time.” He then adds, “And I should know! I’m like the president of harassment.”
“Giuliani” tries to console Trump by stating, “Nobody’s gonna find out about our illegal side dealings with the Ukraine. Or how we tried to cover up those side dealings. Or how we planned to cover up the cover up.” To which Trump asks, “Where are you right now?” and Giuliani responds, “I’m on CNN right now,” as the camera widens out to reveal he’s on Chris Cuomo’s set.
We even see an appearance again by “West,” but this time instead of West joining in celebrating Trump, he tells Trump that, “I don’t think we can fam no more” – as Trump supporter “Don King” grabs the phone and adds, “this whole impeachment thing is hurting our brand.”
An increasingly frantic Trump considers a range of options to save himself from making Pence the “patsy” to soliciting advice from “Kim Jong Un” who tells him: “You have a big ocean in your country? Send whistleblower to the bottom of there.” In response, Trump replies, “I wish my country was as cool as your country.”
Finally, Trump gets so desperate he calls “Ray Donovan,” the fixer from the Showtime series of the same name played by Liev Schreiber, seeking help. But as Schreiber explains, “I told you, Mr. President, ‘Ray Donovan’ is a fictional character. I’m the actor Liev Schreiber.” An unphased Trump responds, “Fine, can you get me in touch with ‘John Wick’?!”
What a contrast to the May finale! While the two sketches themselves weren’t revealing any unknown truths, the difference between them was both stunning and accurate. In May, Trump seemed untouchable. The Mueller report had been released to the public a month earlier, but the Democrats were nowhere close to supporting impeachment.
In fact, at the time, less than 50 House Democrats supported impeachment hearings, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was openly squashing talk of impeachment because she feared it would hurt moderate Democrats running in swing districts in 2020. And an early May poll by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll affirmed Pelosi’s concern – given that, at that time, only 39% of Americans supported impeachment hearings, while a majority opposed it. Notably, 51% of independents opposed impeachment, which is of great concern to members of Congress in swing districts.
Now four months later, that time is but a distant memory. This past Tuesday, Pelosi announced the commencement of formal impeachment hearings and, by last count, at least 224 members of the House of Representatives – over half of its 435 members – now support an impeachment inquiry. Public opinion has shifted as well. The same NPR poll that found only 39% of Americans supporting impeachment hearing shortly before the SNL finale, now found 49% of American on board – with only 46% opposed. (Independents, however, remain torn on impeachment, with 50% still opposing impeachment).
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Given how fast things have moved over the past four months, you have to wonder how “SNL” will be kicking off shows come the spring. Will it be a victorious Trump cleared from any wrongdoing? A sketch about Trump’s trial in the Senate? Or one about Pence being sworn in, after Trump resigns early in an attempt to save himself the embarrassment of a Senate trial?
I know that some may believe this last scenario is farfetched, but given how much has transpired in such a short period of time, it’s certainly plausible that come this season finale, we could see Pence, the newly sworn in President, yelling out, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”