IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
By Beth Griffin
YORK (CNS) — When Donald J. Trump stepped over yet another invisible line of the
contentious presidential race Oct. 20, many of the 1,500 people
at 71st annual dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation broke historic
precedent to boo him.
Trump and Hillary Clinton flanked the host, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, on
the five-tiered dais of the Grand Ballroom at the heavily secured Waldorf
Astoria hotel for the charitable gala.
event has been a traditional opportunity for speakers to poke good-natured fun
at themselves, one another, and prominent guests from the worlds of politics,
business and philanthropy without inflicting wounds.
In 1928, Alfred
E. Smith, former governor of New York who was raised in poverty, was the first
Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for president of the
an introductory warning delivered as a humor-coated reminder of the evening’s ground
rules by emcee Alfred E. Smith IV, chairman of the dinner, Trump veered from the
safety of chuckle-inducing barbs and zings. He said she is “so corrupt” she was kicked off the Watergate commission. The room erupted
in a crescendo of boos and shoutouts, as he lobbed one accusation after
another that his opponent is deceptive and a Catholic-hater. “She
is here tonight … pretending not to hate Catholics,” he said.
was restored when the Republican nominee recalled past Al Smith dinners as a
special occasion to spend time with his father, developer Fred Trump.
Smith, a great-grandson of the foundation’s namesake, aimed jokes equally at both
candidates and reflected the general discomfort of the electorate with them. He
told Trump to watch his language because “even though the man sitting next to
you is in a robe, you’re not in a locker room.” He advised Clinton to remain
stoic in the face of insults during the evening by considering it a fourth
the proximity on Fifth Avenue of St. Patrick’s Cathedral to Trump Tower, Smith
said Trump’s appearance was historic, marking the first time the Catholic Church
was not the largest tax-exempt landowner at the dinner.
was greeted warmly with applause. He quipped that the huge event was a small intimate dinner
with friends for him, but that it counted as his opponent’s largest crowd of
gave a shoutout to politicians in the room who formerly loved him, but turned
on him when he sought the Republican nomination. He said the dinner gives
candidates an opportunity to meet one another’s teams and those working hard to
get them elected.
he spoke, he pointed out chairmen of media corporations seated on the dais and
among the assembly. As an example that the media is biased against him, Trump
said Michelle Obama gave a speech that everyone loved, but when his wife,
Melania, delivered the exact same speech, “people got all over her case. I
don’t get it.”
said he knows Clinton is very gracious because, if elected, she wants him to be
her ambassador to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
said the presidential debates were the most vicious in the history of politics.
In a rare reflective moment, he turned to Clinton and asked, “Are we supposed
to be proud of it?”
need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, defend religious liberty and create a
culture that celebrates life, Trump concluded.
sat down to mixed applause and boos. Retaking the microphone, Smith said, “As
Ronald Reagan would say, ‘There you go again!'” He noted the dinner raised a
record $6 million.
Democratic nominee was introduced to a standing ovation. Clinton said the fiery
populist Al Smith would be proud of the money raised at the event, but if he
saw the “room full of plutocrats” gathered to celebrate his legacy, he’d be
said she was taking a break from her rigorous nap schedule to attend, but the
event was also treat for the guests because she usually charges a lot for a
speech. She said she was a little amazed at the opportunity to speak, because
she didn’t think her opponent would be OK with a peaceful transition of
said, “Every year this dinner brings together a collection of sensible,
committed mainstream Republicans, or as we now like to call them, Hillary
said critics accuse her of saying only what listeners want to hear. “Tonight
that is true. This is exactly what you want to hear. This election will be over
very, very soon.”
said when Trump wanted her to undergo a pre-debate drug test, “I was so flattered
he thought I used some sort of performance-enhancers. Actually I did. It’s
has questioned her stamina, Clinton said, but over the course of three debates,
she has stood next to him for longer than any of his campaign managers. She
said Trump is so concerned about her health, he sent a car to bring her to the
dinner. “Actually it was a hearse.”
Clinton said if elected, “I will be the healthiest and youngest woman ever to
said one of the things the candidates have in common is the Republican National
Committee “isn’t spending a dime to help either one of us.”
serious, Clinton said it’s easy to forget how far the country has come. When Al
Smith ran for office, she said there were rumors that he would forbid
Bible-reading in schools, annul Protestant marriages and make the Holland
Tunnel into a secret passageway to the Vatican so the pope could rule the
country. “Those appeals to fear and division can cause us to treat each other
as ‘the other.’ Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to respect each
other,” she said.
need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while
agreeing on questions of decency and civility,” she said.
the candidates shook hands across Cardinal Dolan at the dinner, he jokingly
attributed his nascent cold at the benediction to having spent two hours seated
between them, which he said is “the iciest pace on the planet. Where is global
warming when you need it?”
noted the funds raised at the dinner would provide grants for thousands of
mothers and children who are most in need and least visible to society.
guests in formal attire sat elbow-to-elbow at gold-covered tables in the
ballroom and its two balconies. The $3,000-a plate meal included a seafood trio
appetizer, tournedos of beef and a chocolate dessert duet. Metropolitan Opera
soprano Nadine Sierra sang the national anthem from the dais, set against the backdrop
of a huge American flag.
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