Annual Alfred Smith Dinner: McCain, Obama Roasted
Appropriately, Republican John McCain was seated to Edward Cardinal Egan’s right at Thursday night’s annual Al Smith Dinner – Democrat Barack Obama to his left. Donning white tie and tails, they put aside political rancor to roast and toast each other with equal relish.
McCain got the ball rolling with a mock announcement that he had fired his entire team of high-priced advisers, as he once did last summer. “All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the Plumber,” deadpanned McCain, referring to real-life plumber Joe Wurzelbacher of Ohio, who became a minor star of the candidates’ final debate Wednesday.
As for those who question whether Joe would have enough money to pay his taxes under an Obama administration, McCain whispered that Joe “recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses” – a reference to McCain’s many homes.
Obama got off his own zingers, beginning by telling the tuxedoed crowd that there is no other group in America that he would rather be “palling around” with, a dig at McCain ads asserting that Obama consorted with one-time radical William Ayers.
“It’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith,” said Obama, “and the ears of Alfred E. Neuman.” The Illinois senator also paid homage to the dinner’s location at the Waldorf-Astoria. “I hear from the doorstep, you can see all the way to the Russian Tea Room,” he cracked in a shot at GOP veep nominee Sarah Palin’s boast that she can see Russia from Alaska.
In another riff, Obama said “contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor-el, to save the planet Earth,” a shoutout to Superman.
With Mayor Bloomberg sitting just a few feet away, Obama also got in a dig at the mayor’s bid to seek a third term. “The mayor recently announced some news … by announcing he is going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, ‘You can do that?'” joked Obama, causing the nearby Hillary Clinton to throw back her head in laughter.
But both men’s jokes ended with poignant salutes to each other for a battle well-fought, offering what amounted to a goodbye. The two men are not expected to share the same stage again this election.
“There was a time when a mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult,” said McCain, adding, “I can’t wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.”
Said Obama, “There are very few of us that have served this country with the same dedication and honor and distinction as Senator McCain.”
The 63rd annual dinner, named in honor of the four-term governor of New York in the 1920s, raised $4 million for the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. Smith’s great-grandson, Alfred Smith 4th, began the evening by joking that he hoped both vice presidential nominees, Palin and Democrat Joe Biden, would also attend. “But Sarah Palin is at the state troopers’ ball,” quipped Smith, “and Joe Biden couldn’t find a white tie and tails at Home Depot.”
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