Obama, Romney at Charity Dinner: `More Sons… Than Jobs’

Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and others attend the 67th annual Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Oct. 18, 2012 in New York.

“It’s nice to relax and wear what Ann and I wear around the house,” Republican Mitt Romney said at a white-tie dinner.

“We’re down to the final months of the president’s term,” Romney said, with President Barack Obama, also in tux and white-tie, seated  at the charity dinner and mutual roast in New York City. “You have to wonder what he’s thinking — so little time, so much to redistribute.”

Obama, Romney said, “already has a new campaign slogan — you’re already better off than you were four weeks ago.”

Romney joked about his presidential debate preparations — 65 years without alcohol, and find the best “straw man” possible. “Big Bird didn’t even see it coming,” he said.

The president, when his turn arrived, asked everyone to “please take their seats — otherwise Clint Eastwood will yell at them.”

In a few weeks, he said, voters in several swing states will decide this year’s election, “which begs the question, what are we doing here?”

`I had a lot more energy in our second debate,” Obama said of his first two televised debates with Romney. “I felt a lot more rested after the nice, long nap I had in our first debate.”

Obama said he had gone shopping in some stores in Midtown Manhattan today — “Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown.”

Noting that the nation’s unemployment rate is the lowest since he took office, the president said: “I don’t have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody that the unemployment rate is the lowest since I took office.”

Noting that “Mitt” is Romney’s middle name, Obama said: “I wish I could use my middle name.”

Obama and Romney were seated at the same head dinner table.

Who attends a dinner like this, the annual Alfred E. Smith dinner which every four years takes on a special character?

An annual charity affair for the benefit of poor children in the lair of the rich, the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which has become a must-stop along the presidential campaign trail?

Mary Higgins Clark, Henry Kissinger, ABC’s (formerly NBC’s and CBS’s) Katie Couric, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, FOX’s Roger Ailes, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, U.S. World and News’ Mort Zuckerman, Washington’s Sen. Chuck Schumer, former New York Mayor Ed Koch and current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among others tonight.

The event, organized by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, raises money for impoverished children. By tradition, presidential candidates share the podium to tease their rivals and mock themselves. While in town, Obama also taped an appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” set for broadcast tonight.

The host is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, leader of the New York archdiocese and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has battled with Obama over a contraception rule for church-run organizations. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has opposed the contraception rule.

In an Aug. 14 posting on the archdiocese blog, Dolan wrote that he received “stacks of mail protesting the invitation to President Obama (and by the way, even some objecting to the invitation to Governor Romney).” Dolan wrote that the dinner is intended to be “an evening of friendship, civility, and patriotism, to help those in need, not to endorse either candidate,” and is keeping with the church’s promotion of dialogue.

Namesake and great-grandson Al Smith IV wasn’t letting anyone else run away with the humor tonight.

In his opening remarks, in acknowledgement of the women in the room — and with an allusion to Romney’s remark in the last presidential debate this week — he said: “It’s good to see who’s getting out of those binders.”

Smith, noting that his great-grandfather was the first Catholic nominee for president, pointed out that Romney is the first Mormon candidate for president. He noted, too, that they both campaigned for governor — “as Democrats.”

Smith added that Romney gives 10 percent of his income to charity — “but the charity is the federal government.”

“Really governor,” Smith asked, “your father was from Mexico and you have five kids — are you sure you’re not Catholic?”

Smith dished it out for the president, too.

“We recognize that you have some challenges this year,” Smith told Obama.“It’s never good when your opponent has produced more sons than you have jobs.”

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