Blog Post

Obama, Romney Trade Jabs at Al Smith Dinner

With New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan heard laughing in the background, President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney traded barbs at the controversial Al Smith dinner.

Fox News is reporting that the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner was held last night in New York's Waldorf Astoria hotel. The event is staged every year to benefit needy children, but has become a kind of "quip-a-thon" for presidential candidates in recent years.

The Cardinal, who flew directly from the Synod in Rome to attend the event, has been under fire for months for inviting the president whose healthcare policies, particularly the contentious birth control mandate, have represented the greatest threat to religious liberty in U.S. history. Dolan and fellow bishops launched an unprecedented two week "Fortnight for Freedom" event this summer during which time the bishops staged street protests and sought to educate the public on the seriousness of these violations.

But last night there was barely a mention of the issues that divide the president's policies from the teachings of the Church.

The only reference to the mandate came from Mitt Romney who joked: "Of course the president has found a way to take the sting out of the Obamacare mandates for the church. From now on, they're going to be in Latin."

Earlier this week, the New York Post quoted an anonymous source close to the Cardinal who claimed the prelate was second-guessing his decision to invite Obama to the dinner. According to the source, "the cardinal himself wonders whether he made the right decision." He added: “He knows the president wants this for one reason, and that’s the photo.”

The same story claimed some of the dinner guests were hoping the Cardinal would take the opportunity to slam the president at the dinner.

"They’re going in hopes that the cardinal’s going to slam him,” said state Sen. Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican attending the annual Al Smith Dinner. “It’s insulting that [Obama is] coming. What he’s doing to the Catholic Church — forcing them to do things against their beliefs — it’s reprehensible.”

The Cardinal chose not to do so and the president got the photo op he wanted.

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