The annual Al Smith dinner was held this year in Manhattan on Thursday, October 20, the day after the final presidential debate in Las Vegas.
The Alfred E Smith Memorial Foundation is named after the first Roman Catholic presidential candidate. Smith served three terms as governor of New York (state) and ran unsuccessfully for President in 1932, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the Democrat Party nomination.
The Foundation was started in 1945, the year after Smith’s death. Its purpose is to raise funds for Catholic charitable purposes and distribute them to worthy causes. During presidential campaign years, both candidates are invited to speak before dinner. The speeches are in the comedy ‘roast’ style, and speakers tell one-liners against themselves as well as each other.
Barack Obama’s 2012 speech to the Catholic dignitaries and media pundits can be found here. Obama waited for the laughs after every ‘joke’ (far from stellar punchlines).
His opponent, Mitt Romney, knocked it out of the park with jokes written by comedian Dennis Miller which he delivered to a T.
This year, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton delivered speeches. Trump’s was funny yet made serious points. He began by saying that he was an insider amongst many seated around him on the dais. Now he is an outsider. Then, in talking about his and Cardinal Dolan’s properties on Fifth Avenue — Trump Tower and St Patrick’s Cathedral — he offered praise by saying that while his is manmade, Cardinal Dolan’s was ‘made by the hands of God’.
After that, it was time to joke about the campaign and Hillary, which included barbs about the debate and the missing emails.
At 12:39, he said, ‘Hillary is so corrupt …’ which brought a stunning reaction from the man on the right of the screen, Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, and Cardinal Dolan who wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and removed his cap for the remainder of the speech. Trump continued with more one-liners that got everyone laughing again:
At the end, he spoke about the importance of life (anti-abortion statement) and the excellent work of the Al Smith Foundation which, this year alone, raised $6 million to help needy children in New York.
The barometer for laughs is the lady in the red dress, Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network. She didn’t laugh nearly as often at Hillary Clinton’s monologue. In the interest of fairness, here is her speech:
My thanks to the citizen sleuths at The Conservative Treehouse for identifying people and mentioning that Bill Clinton was the only presidential candidate disinvited from this event. That was because of his support of partial-birth abortion. Bill was not in attendance last night, either.
Of course, since then, other Democratic nominees have supported abortion, including Hillary, who made no secret of it at the third debate. But, as many know, Cafeteria Catholics abound these days, including at the Al Smith Dinner.