Obama’s Al Smith Roast
New York, NY — Sen. Barack Obama was a comedy hit at the Al Smith Dinner last night, held at the opulent Waldorf Astoria in Midtown, just across the street from the trendier W. hotel, where the Obama camp hunkered down last night.
Obama was plucky and gracious, roasting his rival, Sen. John McCain, who sat a few feet away, while serving up plenty of self-deprecating jokes, too.
Obama’s edgiest line referenced the smears leveled against McCain in the 2000 primary. “Fox News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock!,” he said to much laughter.
En route to Virginia today, Obama’s press bus buzzed about some of last night’s jokes, and one person said McCain would be doing better if he could give stump speeches that were as good as his stand-up routine.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you to Al and to Ann, to your Eminence, to Gov. Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg, to Sen. and Mrs. McCain, to my wonderful colleagues, Sens. Clinton and Schumer, to all the distinguished guests. There is no other crowd in America that I’d rather be palling around with right now. I’m sorry he couldn’t be here. I do send regards to my running mate, Joe Biden, or, as Sen. McCain has noted, he now actually likes to be called Joe the Senator.
I was thrilled to get this invitation, and I feel right at home here because it’s often been said that I share the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman. But I have to say tonight’s venue isn’t really what I’m used to. I was originally told we’d be able to move this outdoors to Yankee Stadium, and — can somebody tell me what happened to the Greek columns that I requested?
I do love the Waldorf-Astoria, though. You know, I hear that from the doorstep you can see all the way to the Russian Tearoom. It is an honor to be here with Al Smith. I obviously never knew your great grandfather, but from everything that Sen. McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before prohibition. So, wonderful stories.
The mayor of this great city, Michael Bloomberg, is here. the mayor recently announced some news — made some news by announcing he’s going to be rewriting the rules and running for a third term, which caused Bill Clinton to say, “You can do that?”
The president’s better half, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, is here. Glad to see you made it, Hillary. I’m glad to see that you made it because I heard Chuck Schumer actually tried to tell you that we really did move this event to Yankee Stadium. But I’ll tell you all from personal experience, Hillary Clinton is one of the toughest and most formidable presidential candidates in history. She’s broken barriers. She’s inspired millions. She is the — she is the primary reason I have all this gray in my hair now.
I am also glad to see that Sen. Schumer is here, and I see that he’s brought some of his loved ones. Those would be the folks with the cameras and the notebooks in the back of the room.
Of course, I am especially honored to be here tonight with my distinguished opponent, Sen. John McCain. I think it is a tribute to American democracy that with two weeks left in a hard-fought election, the two of us could come together and sit down at the same dinner table without preconditions. Recently, one of John’s top advisers told the Daily News that if we keep talking about the economy, McCain’s going to lose. So, tonight I’d like to talk about the economy.
Given all that’s happened these past few weeks on Wall Street, it feels like an odd time to be dressed up in white tie, but I must say I got a great deal, rented the whole outfit from the Treasury Dept. at a very good price. Looking around tonight at all the gourmet food and champagne, it’s clear that no expenses were spared. It’s like an executive sale meeting at AIG. But I don’t need to tell any of you that it’s been a scary time on the stock market with people losing their investments, their entire fortunes. It’s gotten so bad Bloomberg now has to take the subway. And while the collapse of the housing market’s been tough on every single home owner, I think we all need to recognize that this crisis has been eight times harder on John McCain.
You know, we’ve been debating a lot of these economic issues over the course of the campaign, but lately things have been getting a bit tougher. In the last few weeks, John’s been out on the campaign trail and asked the question, who is Barack Obama? Now I have to admit I was a little surprised by this question. The answer is right there on my Facebook page.
But, look, I don’t want to be coy about this. We’re a couple weeks from an important election. Americans have a big choice to make, and if anybody feels like they don’t know me by now, let me try to give you some answers. Who is Barack Obama? Contrary to the rumors you have heard, I was not born in a manger. I was actually born on Krypton and sent here by my father, Jor El, to save the planet Earth.
Many of you — many of you know that I got my name, Barack, from my father. What you may not know is that Barack is actually Swahili for “that one.” And I got my middle name from somebody who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president.
If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it’s possible that I’m a little too awesome. One other thing, I have never, not once, put lipstick on a pig or a pit bull or myself. Rudy Giuliani, that’s one for you. I mean — who would have thought that a cross-dressing mayor from New York City would have a tough time running the Republican nomination?
It’s shocking. That was a tough primary you had there, John. Anyway, anyway, that’s who I really am. But in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a few October surprises you’ll be finding out about in the coming weeks. First of all, my middle name is not what you think. It’s actually Steve. That’s right. Barack Steve Obama. Here’s another revelation — John McCain is on to something.
There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd. I’ve got to be honest. These guys were serious deadbeats. They were lowlifes, they were unrepentant, no-good punks. That’s right. I’ve been a member of the United States Senate. Come to think of it, John, I swear I saw you at one of our meetings.
But I know Sen. McCain agrees that some of the rumors out there are getting a bit crazy. I mean, Rupert the other day, Fox News actually accused me of fathering two African-American children in wedlock. By the way, John, I’m just curious is Fox News included in the media? Because I’m always hearing about this love. Just curious. Then at one of these campaign rallies, someone in the crowd started yelling, “no-bama,” announcing to everyone in the room that I shouldn’t be the Democratic nominee because there were far more qualified candidates. I really wish Joe Biden hadn’t done that.
But at least we’ve moved past the days when the main criticism coming from the McCain campaign was that I’m some celebrity. I have to admit that that really hurt. I got so angry about it I punched the paparazzi in the face on my way out of Spago’s. I’m serious. I even spilled my soy chai latte all over my shih tzu. It was really embarrassing.
But in all seriousness, I’m so glad that I could make it tonight, and I’m honored to be among such wonderful public servants. I want to especially say a word of thanks to Sen. McCain. We are in the midst of a tough battle right now, and American politics at the presidential level is always tough, but I’ve said before, and I think it bears repeating, that there are very few of us who have served this country with the same dedication and honor and distinction as Sen. McCain, and I’m glad to be sharing this space with him tonight, as I am during the course of this nomination.
And before I close, I’d like to recognize one such servant not with us tonight, and that’s our good friend, Tim Russert. I know that Luke and Maureen are here. And I know that Tim enjoyed these dinners very much. And I also know how much he would have enjoyed covering this election.
And I know that John and I would have been quaking in our boots preparing for our appearances on “Meet the Press.” And his absence is not just a personal loss for so many who knew and loved him, but a profound loss for the country, and we continue to miss him very much.
You know — the fact that each October in the closing weeks of a hard-fought campaign, people of all political persuasions can come to this dinner and share a meal and honor the work of this foundation underscores the reality that no matter what differences or divisions or arguments we’re having right now, we ultimately belong to something bigger and more lasting than a political party. We belong to a community. We share a country. We are all children of God. And in this country, there are millions of fellow citizens, our brothers and sisters, who need us very much, especially now. We are being battered by a very serious economic storm, and for many Americans it’s only deepened the quiet storms they’ve been struggling through for years.
Beyond the walls of this hotel on the streets of one of the greatest cities in the wealthiest nation on earth, there are men and women and children who have fallen on hard times and hard luck, who can’t find work or even a job that pays enough to keep a roof over their heads. Some are hanging on just by a thread.
Scripture says God creates us for works of service. We are blessed to have so many organizations like this one and the Catholic Diocese that perform these acts of god every day. But each of us also have that responsibility. Each of us has that obligation, especially now.
So no matter who we are or what we do, what I believe is: each of us in this room asks for and hopes for and prays for enough strength and wisdom to do good and to seek justice and play our small part in building more hopeful and compassionate world for the generations that will follow. Before Al Smith was a candidate who made history, he was a man who made a difference, a man who fought for many years to give Americans …. [Released transcript ends here.]