If you watched or listened to any political news yesterday, you may have been treated to clips of the two major presidential candidates speaking at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner Thursday night in New York City. Alfred Smith was a 4-term governor of New York and the Democratic candidate for president in 1928 (I didn't know that; my husband, bottomless source of information that he is, filled me in, and I also looked up some more details here). The foundation named for Mr. Smith is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York and is dedicated to assisting "the poor, sick, and underprivileged of the Archdiocese . . . regardless of race, creed, or color" (source).
You can view both Senator McCain's and Senator Obama's remarks in their entirety here. But if you don't have time for both (it's about 25 minutes worth of video), take my advice and at least watch McCain, because whether you agree with his politics or not, his performance was simply more entertaining than Obama's. Contrary to what one might expect, considering Obama's reputation as a rhetorician, McCain's routine was funnier and his delivery much more convincing than Obama's. He struck me as being completely at ease with the room, and his jokes--though certainly written for him, as I'm sure were Obama's--were delivered with natural comedic timing. Obama, on the other hand, came across--at least for much of his remarks--as stiff and uncomfortable. I sometimes had the experience of realizing belatedly that a sentence was supposed to be a joke. He just didn't seem to be enjoying himself that much. To be fair, he did get better as he went along, but he was clearly uncomfortable at the outset.
Both candidates' speeches followed the same outline: 1) roast the opponent, 2) celebrate the Foundation, and 3) say something nice about the other candidate. I couldn't help noticing that when it came time for McCain to give a tip of the hat to the work of the Foundation, he highlighted their commitment to the pro-life cause, whereas Obama of course had to limit his references to the Foundation's work for the needy. I was also struck by the contrast between the remarks that the candidates directed at one another. McCain's nod to Obama was prolonged and genuinely warm, whereas Obama's came across as formal and obligatory.
Yes, I know--I'm a Republican who is going to vote for McCain, so I am predisposed to give him a better grade. But I also like to laugh, and I appreciate anyone who can entertain me, regardless of his or her politics. If Obama had been the better showman, I would say so.
None of this has any bearing, of course, on whom you should vote for. You should vote for McCain because he is the best man for the job and because his policies will be best for the country. But it's also nice to know that should he win, we'll also be able to enjoy someone in the White House with a healthy sense of humor.
If Obama wins, it's going to be a long four years, for many reasons. And now you can add one more: he's not much fun, either.