President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney made fun of themselves and each other at a high-profile charity dinner on the evening of October 18 in New York City. The formal event hosted by the city's Catholic archdiocese at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was a chance for the candidates to take a break from an often combative presidential campaign. At the white-tie affair, host Cardinal Timothy Dolan, sat between them as prominent clergymen, journalists, and entrepreneurs looked on.
Romney, a multi-millionaire, began the evening by taking a shot at his own wealth, telling the formally dressed crowd that he was glad he and his wife Ann could slip into clothes they "wear around the house." His speech also poked fun at the media, who many Republicans accuse of favoring Democrats. "Let's just say some in the media have a certain way of looking at things. When I suddenly, pulled ahead in some of the major polls, what was the headline? 'Polls show Obama leading from behind,' Romney joked. "And I have already seen early reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: 'Obama embraced by Catholics,' ' Romney dines with rich people.'"
Along that vein, the former Massachusetts governor quipped, “I never suggest the press is biased. They have a job to do and I have a job to do,” said Romney. “My job is to lay out a positive vision for the country, and their job is to make sure nobody finds out about it.”
With a self-deprecating humor, Romney roasted his opponent saying that he wished Obama would have brought Vice President Joe Biden with him “because he’ll laugh at anything.” To applause, Romney delivered a barb about Obama's economic and social policies, saying “Of course we’re down to the final months of the president’s term,” Romney said to applause. “You have to wonder what he’s think. So little time, so much to redistribute.”
Continuing with his self-deprecating humor, Romney poked fun at reservations some Americans have about his teetotaling Mormon faith, “Usually when I get invited to gatherings like this, it’s just to be designated driver.” Romney joked, poking fun at his Mormon faith.
Romney spoke to criticisms that have emerged over the Obama campaign's use of a well-known icon of children's television. “Big Bird didn’t even see it coming,” Romney said. “In the spirit of sesame Street, the president’s remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter O and the number $16 trillion.” However, Romney closed by praising Obama and rendering him a measure of praise. “We don’t carry the burden of disliking one another,” said Romney, praising the presidennt's talents and love for family. “In our country, you can oppose someone in politics and make a confident case about their policies without any ill-will. And that’s how it is for me. There is more to life than politics.”
Obama, a millionaire himself, took a swipe at Romney's wealth, noting that while he had earlier gone shopping at some stores in midtown Manhattan, Romney "went shopping for some stores." Obama made light of his performance in the first debate, during which many said he looked tired and uninterested. "This is the third time that Governor Romney and I have met recently. As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy in our second debate. I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate," the president joked.
The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, named after a former Democratic governor of New York. Al Smith ran as a Democrat for president in 1928 and was the first Catholic to do so. The eponymous annual dinner, to which presidential candidates are invited every four years, is expected to raise $5 million for Catholic charities.
Before the event, Obama appeared on Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where he defended his handling of last month's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Obama rejected accusations that his administration was "confused" in its response to the attack, which killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.The chief executive quipped, "If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal." He insisted that officials did not withhold information from the public, but said because of the large size of the government, sometimes things "screw up." The subject of the attack came up in the recent presidential debate when Obama said that any suggestion from Romney that he or his administration tried to make political points from the attack was particularly "offensive."
Recent polls show both candidates locked in a tight race, with less than three weeks until election day. They will meet in a third and final presidential debate on October 22 in Florida. It will focus exclusively on foreign policy.