Remembering recent entertainment from Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner
We’ve all, as Rutgers students, been given ample time this fall with classes moved primarily online. Between classes, internships and work, you’re probably looking for new shows or movies to kill your excess time. I posit, though, that the best entertainment this fall will not be seen through Netflix.
The most entertaining spectacle will be the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
Founded in 1945, the dinner, colloquially referred to as the Al Smith Dinner, is an annual event that brings together New York’s richest Catholics to raise money for charity. During election years, it is typical for the two major party presidential candidates to crack jokes. It’s all very postmodern, in my opinion — you have two very rich sociopaths, many of whom have committed war crimes, pretending to be human for a night. It makes for great entertainment.
This year, assuming the dinner isn’t pandemic’d off the schedule, President Donald J. Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will take the stage on October 1 and attempt to act charming for the night. It’ll surely be a pathetic display and will probably be best enjoyed with a beer by your side.
Let’s take a look at highlights from previous dinners.
2016: Trump roasts Clinton over email scandal
In 2016, if you can remember that far back, Trump and former Secretary of State Clinton were vying for the presidency. Clinton was deep in political crossfire regarding her usage of a private email server — a scandal that, in retrospect, seems minuscule. Trump cracked a joke about the subject.
“And even tonight, with all of the heated back and forth between my opponent and me at the debate last night, we have proven that we can actually be civil with each other. In fact, just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me, and she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me,’” Trump said, referring to a presidential pardon of her alleged email crimes, completely ignoring the fact that his own campaign would have several associates face indictments. Clinton’s would have none.
2012: Obama jabs Romney over his wealth
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) faced off against former President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. A huge issue during the campaign was Romney’s extravagant wealth, which many thought made him out of touch with average Americans. Romney’s worth approximately $250 million — so he’s certainly wealthy. Still, in comparison with our current president, Trump, Romney’s a beggar, so the hysteria regarding his bank account seems overblown now.
Still, that didn’t stop Obama from quipping about it at the 2012 Al Smith Dinner.
“Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown,” Obama said.
2000: Bush gets self-deprecating
The 2000 presidential election between former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Al Gore went down to the wire, with the United States Supreme Court eventually deciding to stop a recount and ultimately hand Bush the victory.
Before that, though, the candidates took to the Al Smith Dinner where Bush made a joke about his conservative, wealthy base.
“This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base,” Bush said, prior to committing war crimes in the Middle East a couple years later.
This year’s dinner will probably be the saddest on memory with neither candidate boasting an impressive record, neither of them possessing a bone of charm in their body, the nation in disarray and an overarching irony of watching these two rich, out-of-touch men dining and joking in a crowd of just as rich people.
But it’ll surely be entertaining — not to laugh at their jokes, but to laugh at them. If nothing more, it’ll be a reminder to vote and to create a system in which two men like these are never given such a platform again.
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