Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Dolan Will Let Obama and Romney Joke It Up at the Al Smith Dinner
New York Times
By SHARON OTTERMAN
The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have been up in arms about various policies of President Obama, including his support for same-sex marriage and his insistence that employer health insurance cover contraception.
But the nation’s top bishop, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, signaled on Tuesday that he was willing to share at least one night of joking and camaraderie with the Democratic president, despite their differences.
The Archdiocese of New York confirmed that both Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, had accepted an invitation to speak on Oct. 18 at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a glittering New York Catholic charity event that has served for more than six decades as a lighthearted pit stop for presidential candidates in the weeks before national elections.
Mr. Obama’s invitation has generated dismay among some opponents of abortion, who point out that there are precedents for barring candidates from the dinner. In 1996, Cardinal John O’Connor decided not to invite the candidates, apparently because President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, had just vetoed a partial-birth abortion bill, and in 2004, Cardinal Edward M. Egan did not invite the candidates, apparently because the Democratic nominee was Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights.
Cardinal Dolan, who has a dual role as archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has warned that the nation’s religious liberty is at risk as a result of several Obama administration policies, like the new health care law’s mandate that some religiously affiliated institutions provide coverage that includes contraception for employees.
But the cardinal has also said it is important to engage those he disagrees with, and as the president of the Al Smith Foundation’s board of directors, he sent the invitation, said Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the New York Archdiocese.
“It is the tradition of the Smith dinner to invite the presidential candidates in the presidential election years in the spirit of nonpartisanship, good humor and good fellowship,” Mr. Zwilling said in an interview.
At the dinner, which is held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the two candidates will be asked to give seven-minute speeches. By tradition, the speeches are humorous and self-deprecating.
In 2008, Mr. Obama got big laughs when he exchanged quips and compliments with the Republican candidate, John McCain, though neither man had a joke as memorable as that of George W. Bush in 2000, who told the well-heeled crowd: “Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.”
at 12:10 PM