The point of a celebrity roast is to bring together people who know the "Man of the Hour" and who will be brutally honest about him.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump got most of those down during a roast of Hillary Clinton at the white-tie Alfred E. Smith Foundation charity banquet in New York City on Thursday night. At the very least, he was brutally honest.
Emphasis on brutally.
"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 to each other," he said. "In fact, just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said, 'Pardon me.' And I very politely replied, 'Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.'"
That one drew laughs even from Clinton herself. But there were several after which she was visibly angry at the laughs coming at her expense. For her part, she also tried to slam her opponent, but not always with the same effect.
Several observers called her performance "wooden" and "contrived."
"Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a '4,' maybe a '5,' if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair," she said. "Come to think of it, you know what would be a good number for a woman? 45."
The next president of the United States—either Clinton or Trump—will be the 45th.
The dinner, named after a former New York governor, raised more than $6 million for local Catholic children's charities. Prior to their turns at the podium, Trump and Clinton were seated near each other with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in between.
He had called on Clinton to apologize for comments made by staffers regarding Catholics, evangelicals and Christians in general that were recently made public by WikiLeaks. Rather than apologize, however, Clinton decided to use the opportunity to lecture the Catholics in the room:
Donald will tell us after the benediction whether he accepts that this dinner is over. He has to wait and see. But there's nothing funny about the stakes in this election. In the end what makes this dinner important are not the jokes we tell but the legacy that we carry forward. It is often easy to forget how far this country has come.
And there are a lot of people in this room tonight who themselves, or their parents or grandparents, came here as immigrants, made a life for yourselves, took advantage of the American dream and the greatest system that has ever been created in the history of the world to unleash the individual talents and energy and ambition of everyone willing to work hard.
And when I think about what Al Smith went through it's important to just reflect how groundbreaking it was for him, a Catholic, to be my party's nominee for president. Don't forget—school boards sent home letters with children saying that if Al Smith is elected president you will not be allowed to have or read a Bible. Voters were told that he would annul Protestant marriages.
And I saw a story recently that said people even claimed the Holland Tunnel was a secret passageway to connect Rome and America, to help the Pope rule our country.
Those appeals, appeals to fear and division, can cause us to treat each other as the Other. Rhetoric like that makes it harder for us to see each other, to respect each other, to listen to each other. And certainly a lot harder to love our neighbors as ourselves.
I believe how we treat others is the highest expression of faith and of service. I'm not Catholic. I'm a Methodist, but one of the things that we share is the belief that in order to achieve salvation we need both faith and good works. And you certainly don't need to be Catholic to be inspired by the humility and heart of the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Or to embrace his message.
His message about rejecting a mindset of hostility, his calls to reduce inequality, his warnings about climate change, his appeal that we build bridges, not walls.
Now as you may know, my running mate, Tim, is Catholic and went to Jesuit schools, and one of the things he and I have talked about is this idea from the Jesuits of the Magis, the more, the better. But we need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility. How we talk to each other, treat each other, respect each other.
So I've taken this concept of Magis to heart in this campaign, as best as one can in the daily heat, the back and forth of a presidential campaign, to ask how we can do more for each other, and better for each other. Because I believe that for each of us, our greatest monument on this earth won't be what we build, but the lives we touch.
Trump did, however, have his own remarks related to matters of faith:
I have great memories of coming to this dinner with my father over the years when I was a young man. Great experience for me.
This was always a special experience for him and me to be together. One thing we can all agree on is the need to support the great work that comes out of the dinner. Millions of dollars have been raised to support disadvantaged children, and I applaud the many people who have worked to make this wonderful event a critical lifeline for children in need.
And that we together broke the all-time record tonight is really something special. More than $6 million net, net, net, net. The cardinal told me that's net net, Donald, remember. We can also agree on the need to stand up to anti-Catholic bias, to defend religious liberty and to create a culture that celebrates life. America is in many ways divided ...
Thank you. America is in many ways divided like it's never been before. And the great religious leaders here tonight give us all an example that we can follow. We're living in a time, an age that we never thought possible before. The vicious barbarism we read about in history books, but never thought we'd see it in our so-called modern-day world. Who would have thought we would be witnessing what we're witnessing today.
We've got to be very strong, very, very smart, and we've got to come together not only as a nation, but as a world community. Thank you very much, God bless you and God bless America. Thank you.
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