Lisa becomes a finalist in a patriotic essay contest and travels to UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC, only to have her faith in the American way shattered when she witnesses a senator taking a bribe and planning to destroy a forest.
** When Lisa wants to write an essay, she says: "America, inspire me!", whereupon a bald eagle lands on a tree branch and spreads his wings. This pose is a reference to the Great Seal of the United States, complete with arrows in its left claw.
** After witnessing corruption, Lisa watches a group of politicians near the Capitol and imagines them as cats scratching each other's backs and filthy pigs who are fed money by Uncle Sam and wipe their mouths with the American flag.
* BaitAndSwitch: George (H.W) Bush does this with a diplomat when he receives the bill to expel Bob Arnold.
-->'''George Bush''': Okay, this should make my bosses very happy.
-->'''Diplomat''': [[ManBehindTheMan Your bosses?]]
-->'''George Bush''': Yep. All 250 million of them.
* ComicallyMissingThePoint: The Simpsons arrive at the airport where they see a chauffeur holding a sign that reads: "Simpson". Homer then says: "Look, Marge, that guy has the same last name we do!" and hails a taxi instead.
* CorruptPolitician: Bob Arnold. He takes a bribe to demolish the forest that ''inspired'' Lisa's essay, and is willing to allow oil drilling on Teddy Roosevelt's head. Though that second one was a sting operation to have him arrested.
* DudeWhereIsMyRespect: When Lisa tries to ask Thomas Jefferson's monument for advice, Jefferson feels angry because, compared to Lincoln, nobody visits him. Then, in a SarcasmMode, he starts naming all the so-called "unimportant things" he did for the United States.
* EagleLand: Zigzagged. The members of government can be corrupt, but Lisa's essay, even though it causes her to lose a contest, is what ends exposing Arnold, showing that people can bring down corrupt forces.
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: Marge snickers at the phallic shape of the Washington Monument. Homer tells Marge to "grow up".
* LeaningOnTheFourthWall: Homer says: "Oh, Marge, cartoons don't have any deep meaning. They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh." Then he rises from his chair and reveals his rear cleavage.
* NakedOnArrival: The Simpsons visit the White House, where they see Barbara Bush taking a bath. At first, she is startled, but then she just starts guiding them about the room.
** Normally there would be all kinds of charges leveled against the Simpsons, but they have a special pass put together by Reading Digest.
* NotSoAboveItAll: The GettingCrapPastTheRadar moment mentioned above.
* ShatteringTheIllusion: Lisa arrives in Washington to show off her patriotic pride with an essay, but loses faith in the American way when she witnesses a senator taking a bribe. [[TheWoobie Poor girl]].
** The title is this to ''Film/MrSmithGoesToWashington''. The plot is similar too, with Lisa being a patriotic idealist as she enters Washington, becoming disillusioned when she witnesses the corruption there. Just like Mr. Smith, she goes to the Lincoln Memorial to ask him for advice and then uses her talents to criticize the system, which does result in the arrest of the corrupt people she witnessed.
** The Simpsons stay in the Watergate Hotel and visit the IRS Building, the National Air and Space Museum, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol and the Winifred Beecher Howe Memorial.
** Ted Kennedy can be seen at the contest.
** The satirical pianist is a spoof of MarkRussell.
** Reading Digest is similar to the real life ReadersDigest.
* SwampsAreEvil: Invoked metaphorically by Lisa in her essay "Cesspool on the Potomac", where -- after witnessing the corruption in the U.S. Senate -- she compares the stink of the swamp Washington D.C. was built on with the stink of corruption that fills it now.
-->"The city of Washington was built on a stagnant swamp some 200 years ago and very little has changed. It stank then and it stinks now."
* UsefulNotes/ThomasJefferson: Lisa visits his monument.
** TakeThat: In an (imaginary) conversation, the statue rants about how the Lincoln Memorial is constantly crowded, and about how people care more about Lincoln than about him.
* TooDumbToLive: After one of the judges suspects Homer of helping Lisa with her essay, she asks him if he's interested in politics or anything for that matter. After Homer shrugs it off with the words "I don't know", the judge asks him to touch his nose with his eyes closed, which Homer fails to do. ''Twice!'' (Before speaking to Homer, the judge suspected he had been giving Lisa help. ''After'' speaking to Homer, she considered giving Lisa extra points for doing so well despite him.)
* VacationEpisode: The Simpsons travel to Washington D.C.