President Barack Obama (left), Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney at the Al Smith dinner Thursday night in New York City. | Brendan Smialowski~AFP/Getty Images
Updated: November 21, 2012 6:08AM
The Al Smith dinner in New York is a true test for the modern presidential candidate: Can he deliver hilarious lines written for him by somebody else?
The difficulty is in not cracking up, since the candidates are often hearing the lines for the first time themselves.
The lines are always satirical and funny. But, as I have had recent cause to point out, “satire is the lie that tells the truth.”
So here are the “truths” — spoken in jest, of course — by Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on Thursday night in Manhattan.
But first, one of the best lines of the dinner, which is sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, came from the host, Al Smith IV: “Gov. Romney, your father was born in Mexico and had five kids. Are you sure you’re not Catholic?”
Smith also pointed out that all the men on the multi-tiered dais in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel ballroom were dressed in white tie and tails, “Or, as Gov. Romney calls it, business casual.”
Romney rose and noted that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was at the dinner and is known as a man with presidential ambitions.
“Gov. Cuomo may be getting ahead of himself,” Romney pointed out. “He has put in one term as governor, he has a father who was governor, and he thinks that is enough to run for president!”
All his comments were met with laughter, and I will let you insert that response after each of these:
† “Usually when I get invited to gatherings like this, it’s to be the designated driver.”
† “My tip for debate prep is, first, refrain from alcohol for 65 years.”
† “It’s good to have someone you can depend on at the end of the day. I have my wife, Ann. President Obama has Bill Clinton.”
Romney also said the media would probably be unfair to him: “The headlines will be, ‘Obama embraced by Catholics; Romney dines with rich people.’ ”
He then ended on a serious and gracious note, by saying of Obama: “We don’t carry the burden of disliking each other. He has many fine gifts and a wonderful family that would make any man proud. There’s more to life than politics.”
Obama then approached the lectern to speak and got a standing ovation.
“Everyone please take your seats,” he said, “otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them.”
Speaking a little longer than Romney, Obama followed with:
† “I had a lot more energy in the second debate. I was well rested after the nice long nap I had during the first debate.”
† “Four years ago, I gave Chris Matthews a thrill up his leg. At the first debate, I gave him a stroke.”
† “Earlier, I went shopping at stores in Midtown. I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for stores in Midtown.”
† “Unemployment is at the lowest since I took office. I don’t have a joke here. I just wanted to remind people.”
Obama also added a serious note, pointing out that “family man and loving father are two titles that matter more than any political ones.”
But he got off a great line in preparation for Monday’s final presidential debate in Boca Raton, Fla.
“The next debate is on foreign policy,” Obama said. “Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden.”
That’s all, folks!