Trump, Clin­ton trade caus­tic barbs as roast turns bit­ter

Malta Independent - - NEWS - ■ Jonathan Lemire

The an­nual Al­fred E. Smith Me­mo­rial Foun­da­tion Din­ner, a white-tie gala in New York that is of­ten the last time the two pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees share a stage be­fore Elec­tion Day, is tra­di­tion­ally a time when cam­paign hos­til­i­ties are set aside. Not this year. Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton traded sharp barbs and bru­tal take­downs Thurs­day, the night af­ter their fi­nal de­bate, with many in the well-heeled crowd turn­ing on the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee mid­way through his re­marks and show­er­ing him with jeers.

Trump, who had drawn big laughs ear­lier in the speech, ap­peared to lose the room as he re­peat­edly dug in with caus­tic swipes at Clin­ton, draw­ing rare boos at a char­ity event meant to raise money for im­pov­er­ished chil­dren through­out New York.

He ap­peared to strad­dle the line when he talked about how “lis­ten­ing to Hil­lary rat­tle on and rat­tle on” has made him bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate his long­time neme­sis Rosie O’Don­nell. But he then seemed to cross it when he re­ferred to her as “cor­rupt” dur­ing a lengthy riff on the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her use of a pri­vate email server as sec­re­tary of state.

“Hil­lary is so cor­rupt she got kicked off the Water­gate Com­mis­sion. How cor­rupt do you have to be to get kicked off the Water­gate Com­mis­sion? Pretty cor­rupt,” he said to loud boos and at least one call de­mand­ing he get off the stage.

He then al­most ap­peared to segue into the stan­dard at­tack lines of his rally speeches, set­ting aside jokes to bring up ma­te­rial con­tained in hacked Clin­ton cam­paign emails.

“Hil­lary be­lieves that it’s vi­tal to de­ceive the peo­ple by hav­ing one pub­lic pol­icy and a to­tally dif­fer­ent pol­icy in pri­vate,” he said to grow­ing jeers. “Here she is tonight, in pub­lic, pre­tend­ing not to hate Catholics.”

Clin­ton also veered into per­sonal digs, mak­ing one joke in which she said the Statue of Lib­erty, for most Amer­i­cans, rep­re­sents a sym­bol of hope for im­mi­grants.

“Don­ald looks at the Statue of Lib­erty and sees a ‘4,’” Clin­ton joked. “Maybe a ‘5’ if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”

Trump and Clin­ton sat one seat apart for the evening, with New York’s Car­di­nal Ti­mothy Dolan act­ing as the only buf­fer. And when they en­tered and took their seats, they did not greet each other or make eye con­tact, though they did shake hands at the con­clu­sion of the roast.

Dolan later called his seat “the ici­est place on the planet.”

Most eyes were on Trump, who in­fa­mously glow­ered through Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s jokes at his ex­pense dur­ing the 2011 White House Cor­re­spon­dents Din­ner and is not known for be­ing self-dep­re­cat­ing.

Some of his jokes landed well, draw­ing laughs from both the crowd and Clin­ton.

His big­gest laughs came as he talked about Michelle Obama get­ting rave re­views for a re­cent speech. “They think she’s ab­so­lutely great. My wife Me­la­nia gives the ex­act same speech, and peo­ple get on her case,” he said to whoops and laughs.

And some of his at­tack lines flashed a sense of hu­mour that has been mostly ab­sent from the gru­el­ing cam­paign. Clin­ton was the first one to laugh when Trump joked that she had bumped into him ear­lier in the night “and she very sim­ply said ‘Par­don me’” — an un­sub­tle ref­er­ence to the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee’s fre­quent dec­la­ra­tions that his op­po­nent should go to jail.

Clin­ton, mean­while, was more self-dep­re­cat­ing than Trump, jok­ing that she’s taken a break from her “usual nap sched­ule” to at­tend and sug­gest­ing that the au­di­ence should be pleased she’s not charg­ing her usual fee for speak­ing in front of po­ten­tial donors.

But she also got in some digs at Trump, a few of which drew scat­tered jeers. Clin­ton said she un­der­stood why Trump was leery of teleprompters be­cause they can be dif­fi­cult to fol­low and “I’m sure it’s even harder when you’re trans­lat­ing from the orig­i­nal Rus­sian.”

The din­ner is named af­ter the for­mer New York gov­er­nor, who was the first Catholic to re­ceive a ma­jor party nom­i­na­tion for pres­i­dent when he un­suc­cess­fully ran in 1928. And fit­tingly for an event named af­ter a man nick­named “The Happy War­rior,” the oc­ca­sion has pro­duced dozens of mem­o­rable pres­i­den­tial jokes — and sin­cere mo­ments of good­will that have re­mained largely ab­sent from the 2016 cam­paign.

“I can’t wish my op­po­nent luck,” John McCain said in 2008, turn­ing to­ward Obama, “but I do wish him well.”

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