My Point, Here It Is

Yesterday, I wrote a piece about bullies. I said: "It feels sometimes, a lot of the time, that, ideological details aside, the real divide in this country is between bullies and not-bullies. ...These lines are not strictly drawn along party lines, nor am I suggesting that every conservative is a bully and every progressive not a bully. These are broad strokes. But they are broad strokes that define two competing visions for what the nature of this country should be. And those visions are strongly correlated with conservatism and progressivism."

Last night, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney delivered their best ZINGERS at the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.

Now, in case you're not familiar with the Al Smith Dinner, it's "an annual white tie charity fundraiser for Catholic charities, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on the third Thursday of honor of former New York Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic presidential candidate." And since the 1960s, "it has been a stop for the two main presidential candidates during several U.S. election years."

You might remember it simply as the venue where George W. Bush once joked: "This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." Hardy-har.

Anyway. Back to the point about bullies and not-bullies.

Most of President Obama's jokes were poking fun himself: "As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate." Etc. These were his jokes about Romney:
1. I'm still making the most of my time in the city. Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping FOR some stores in Midtown.

2. After my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem.
And here are Mitt Romney's jokes about President Obama:
1. I was actually hoping the president would bring Joe Biden along this evening, because he'll laugh at anything.

2. Of course this isn't a night for serious politics, and it was especially nice to see President Obama and Cardinal Dolan sharing the dais despite their differences. I'm sure the cardinal has no hard feelings, and we might get an indication of that during dinner to see if the president's wine turns into water.

3. As President Obama surveys the Waldorf banquet room with everyone in white tie and refinery, you have to wonder what he's thinking. So little time, so much to redistribute.

4. And don't be surprised if the president mentions this evening the monthly jobs report where there was a slight improvement in the numbers. He knows how to seize the moment, this president. And already has a compelling new campaign slogan, "You're better off now than you were four weeks ago."

5. Your kind hospitality here tonight gives me a chance to convey my deep and long held respect for the Catholic church. I have special admiration for the Apostle St. Peter, to whom it is said, "Upon this rock, I will build my church." The story is all the more inspiring when you consider that he had so many skeptics and scoffers at the time who were heard to say, "If you've got a church, you didn't build that."

6. And by the way in -- in the spirit of Sesame Street, the president's remarks tonight are brought to you but the letter 'O' and the number $16 trillion.

7. Campaigns can be grueling, exhausting. President Obama and are each very lucky to have one person who is always in our corner, someone who we can lean on, and someone who is a comforting presence. Without whom, we wouldn't be able to go another day. I have my beautiful wife Ann, he has Bill Clinton.

8. Let's just say that some in the media have a certain way of -- of looking at things. When suddenly I -- I pulled ahead in some of the major polls, what was the headline? "Polls Show Obama Leading from Behind."

9. Of course the president has put his own stamp on relations with the church. There have been some awkward moments. Like when the president pulled Pope Benedict aside to share some advice on how to deal with his critics. He said, "Look Holy Father, whatever the problem is, just blame it on Pope John Paul II."

10. Of course the president has found a way to take the sting out of the Obamacare mandates for the church. From now on, they're going to be in Latin.
President Obama and Mitt Romney were each given an opportunity to have some shticky fun last night at what is, to describe it charitably, an anachronistic political tradition that obliges politicians to behave like Catskills comedians.

President Obama used the occasion to makes lots of jokes at his own expense.

Mitt Romney used the occasion to make lots of jokes at President Obama's expense, too.

At the end of each of their sets, each man offered the requisite niceties about how the other is really a decent fellow and a good family man blah blah yawn. President Obama offered his sincerely—or, at least, without any jokes.

Mitt Romney, like any competent bully, couldn't bear to offer a straightforward kindness.
Don't tell anyone I said so, but our 44th president has many gifts and a beautiful family that would make any man proud.
HA HA don't tell anyone he said something NICE about the President.

Don't worry, Romney: Your reputation is safe. No one will ever mistake you for someone who knows how to be respectful or kind toward President Barack Obama.

Or anyone else.

[Thanks to Spudsy for giving me the heads-up about the Al Smith Dinner last night. H/T to Shaker jtadetroit in comments for the link to the Telegraph piece.]

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