Tag Archives: Al Smith Dinner

‘Comity’ in Washington is MIA

Few of us ever use the word “comity” in everyday speech. It is a word used by media and politicians to describe a sense of togetherness and civility among public officials.

That word might get a comeback today as the nation bids farewell to U.S. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who preached a return to “order” in politics and sought to reach across to Democrats who served with him and who shared a love of country.

McCain died the other day after a yearlong battle with cancer. His Earthly voice has been stilled, but I surely hope his legacy will remain and that it will include his call for “comity” in the halls of power.

With that, here is a clip from the 2008 Al Smith Memorial Dinner, when Sen. McCain shared a podium with fellow Sen. Barack Obama as the men fought for the presidency.

It gives you a good look at what politics can become and what many of us hope will return … one day.

Charity event proves candidates’ mutual loathing

You need not look any further to determineĀ  whether the two major-party candidates for president of the United States — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump — truly detest each other.

They showed it Thursday night at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City.

It’s an event aimed at raising money for work done by the Catholic Church. The headliners are the two candidates for president. History holds that they poke good-natured fun at each other and at themselves.


Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did it beautifully four years ago, as did Obama and John McCain four years before that. YouTube is full of hilarious comedic riffs from both events.

Last night was a different story — entirely.

For the first time in anyone’s memory, Trump actually got booed for some of the things he said about Clinton. Did anyone actually think he would exhibit a hint of self-deprecation, that he would turn the tables on himself? You know the answer to that one.

Clinton was little better during her time at the mic. She did manage to jab at herself … but seriously?

There was true loathing on display.

What I believe we have witnessed in this campaign has been a ratcheting up of what’s been called the “politics of personal destruction.”

It’s gotten so bitter, so angry, so vindictive that the major-party nominees for the presidency cannot set aside — even for a couple of hours — their seeming hatred for each other.

The Smith dinner is supposed to demonstrate one of the rare qualities of American political life, about how politicians can set aside their differences if only for an evening. Instead, it showed us just how angry we have become.

It saddens me.




What’s in a name?


Social mediaĀ provide a wonderful — but occasionally maddening — forum for passing around silly quips and observations.

This one came across my Facebook feed the other day.

It noted that President Obama’s critics have been fond of referring to him as “Barack Hussein Obama.” Yet one of those critics doesn’t get the same treatment by his foes who could refer to him as “Rafael Eduardo Cruz.”

To be fair, I don’t recallĀ hearing Texas Republican U.S. senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz use the president’s full, given name when referring to him. Maybe he did. Whatever …

I have heard the president make plenty of fun of his own name.

During two appearances with Republican rivals at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City — which is a political ritual of sorts, bringing opponents together for a night of fun and bipartisan fellowship — Obama cracked jokes about his name.

In 2008, he said he got his name from “someone who never thought I’d run for president.” Referring to a line that Republican nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain had used in a debate with Sen. Obama, he joked, “Barack is actually Swahili for ‘that one.'”

In 2012, while running for re-election, the president noted something in common with his GOP foe, Mitt Romney. “We both have unusual names,” he said, noting thatĀ “Mitt” is Romney’s middle name.Ā “I wish I could use my middle name,” the president quipped with feigned wistfulness, again to huge laughter.

What’s the connection between Obama and Cruz? They both have faced — and are facing — equally ridiculous questions about their eligibility to seek the presidency.

What’s the lesson here?

It might rest in that old saying about something being “sauce for the goose … and the gander.”


Oh, for a little more good humor

I couldn’t keep from sharing these two videos on this blog.

They’re both hilarious and they remind us that good humor can exist between political adversaries.

The principals in these two brief videos are the 2012 presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

They spoke at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City, honoring the memory of the late politician and civic leader who once campaigned for the presidency himself. He lost big to Herbert Hoover in 1928.

With all the name-calling, questioning of candidates’ love of country, assertions of evil intent and the stalemate that stalls government’s efforts to actually do something, it’s good to see demonstrations of self-deprecation and some good-natured jabs at the other guy.

And to think this all happened less than three years ago.