John McCain’s Speech At the Al Smith Dinner


Following is the transcript of John McCain’s comedy routine at the Al Smith Dinner in New York, October 16, 2008:

Thank you very much.

Thank you. Thank you very much, Your Excellency and Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Paterson, Senators Schumer and Clinton, Senator Obama, Al and Nan Smith, thank you all for the warm welcome.

It’s a privilege to be with all of you for the 63rd anniversary dinner of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation.

And this is a very distinguished and influential audience and as good a place as any to make a major announcement.

Events are moving fast in my campaign. And, yes, it’s true that this morning I dismissed my entire team of senior advisers. All of their positions will now be held by a man named “Joe the Plumber.”

Already — and already, my friends, my opponents have been subjecting Joe to their vicious attack machines. His veracity has been questioned by Barack Obama’s running mate Joe the six term senator.

He claims that this honest, hardworking small businessman could not possibly have enough income to face a tax increase under the Obama plan. What they don’t know — what they don’t know is “Joe the Plumber” recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses.

This campaign needed the common touch of a working man. After all, it began so long ago with the heralded arrival of a man known to Oprah Winfrey as “The One.” Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him that one.

And he — my friends, he doesn’t mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me — George Bush.

It’s been that kind of contest. And I come here tonight to the Al Smith Dinner knowing that I’m the underdog in these final weeks. But if you know where to look, there are signs of hope. There are signs of hope even in the most unexpected places — even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats. I can’t — I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me.

I’m delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary.

Where’s Bill, by the way?

Can’t he take one night off from his tireless quest to make the man who defeated his wife the next president?

A man who’s a relentless advocate for the Obama campaign and he has this subtle approach to making the case.

When a reporter asked him if Senator Obama was qualified to be president, Bill Clinton pointed out, sure, he’s over 35 years of age and a U.S. citizen.

He was pandering to the strict constructionist crowd.

He’s also been hammering away at me with epitaphs like American hero and great man. And with all the cameras running, he warmly embraced me at that Global Initiative of his. My friends, this is nothing but a brazen attempt to suppress turnout among anti-Clinton conservatives.

Finally, when Larry King asked President Clinton a couple weeks ago what was the delay and why wasn’t he out there on the trail for Barack, Bill said his hands were tied until the end of the Jewish high holidays.

Now, you’ve got to admire that ecumenical spirit. I just know Bill would like to be out there now, stumping for Barack until the last hour of the last day. Unfortunately, he is constrained by his respect for any voters who might be observing the Zoroastrian new year.

And some advocates for Senator Obama are less restrained in their enthusiasm, even in the media. All right, he usually is at table 228, for example, my old friend and Green Room pal Chris Matthews. He used to like me, but he found somebody new — somebody who opened his eyes, somebody who gave him a thrill up his leg.

And we’ve talked about it. I told him maverick I can do, but messiah is above my pay grade.

You know, it’s going to be a long, long night at MSNBC if I manage to pull this thing off.

For starters..

…I understand that Keith Olbermann has ordered up his very own “mission accomplished” banner. And they can hang that in whatever padded room has been reserved for him.

Seriously, Chris, if they need any decorating advice on that banner, ask Keith to call me so I can tell him right where to put it.

So, you know, I had fun with the media and we all know the press is really an independent, civic-minded and nonpartisan group, like ACORN…

In case you haven’t been following my opponent’s get out the vote campaign, ACORN is helping to register groups previously excluded, overlooked and underserved — second graders, the deceased, Disney characters. In Florida, they even turned up an ACORN registration form that bore the name of one Mickey Mouse. We’re checking the paw prints.Although, I might let that one go, I’m pretty sure the big rat’s a Republican.

Anyway, we all know that Senator Obama is ready for any contingency — even the possibility of a sudden and dramatic market rebound. I’m told that at the first sign of recovery, he will suspend his campaign and fly immediately to Washington to address this crisis.

All this will be for the voters to decide very soon. And though I do trust we can keep the turnout amongst deceased and fictional voters to a minimum, I’ve come out on both sides of elections and I’ve never lost my confidence in the judgment of the American people.

In the military, they work pretty hard to impress the chain of command on your way of thinking and one way or another, on the fourth of November, word will come down from the top of the chain and Senator Obama and I will both receive our orders.

I don’t want it getting out of this room, but my opponent is an impressive fellow in many ways. Political opponents can have a little trouble seeing the best in each other. But I’ve had a few glimpses of this man at his best and I admire his great skill, energy and determination. It’s not for nothing that he’s inspired so many folks in his own party and beyond.

Senator Obama talks about making history. And he’s made quite a bit of it already. There was a time when the mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today, it’s a world away from the crude and prideful bigotry of that time. And good riddance. I can’t wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.

Whatever the outcome next month, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country and I congratulate him.

In his own day, Governor Al Smith achieved great things, as well, and traveled a harder path than most any presidential candidate before or since. America will always remember the boy born in an old tenement on South Street in Brooklyn, who was four times elected governor of this state and the newsboy and fishmonger who went to St. James Parochial School and at his death received an apostolic benediction from the pope himself.

At the Al Smith Foundation and at the New York Archdiocese, you’re carrying on the spirit and work of this good man with your service to the poor, your comfort for the sick and needy, your belief in the dignity of life, especially your gallant defense of the rights of the unborn.

I’m proud to count myself as your friend and ally. With that, with that, my friends, let me make way for my opponent, who tonight is making a comedy debut that I guess we could call the final test of this campaign.

Now, a copy of the senator’s comedy routine was left on the table this evening. And I have to confess, Your Eminence, I looked at it.

Now, of course, it would be unfair — and even a little unkind — to put my opponent on the spot before he gets up here or to throw him off his game with unreasonably high expectations.

But I do need to warn you, ladies and gentlemen, you all are about to witness the funniest performance in history.

In the 63-year history of this event…

…let’s not add to the mounting pressure he must be feeling.

Just prepare yourself for nonstop hilarity…

. ..the funniest 15 minutes of your life or any other. I think he knows that anything short of that would mar the evening, insult our hosts…

…and perhaps even cost him several swing states.Senator Obama, the microphone is all yours.

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