On Thursday, the presidential candidates for both of the two major parties appeared at the Al Smith Dinner, an annual fundraiser for Catholic Charities which has been a frequent election campaign stop for presidential hopefuls since Kennedy and Nixon appeared there in 1960. The speeches given by the candidates at the Al Smith Dinner are, by tradition, supposed to be funny, and this year the candidates did not disappoint (video of both speeches can be found here). Both Senator Obama and Senator McCain showed themselves to be quite capable of poking fun at their opponents and at themselves which was, I think, all to the good.
One line in particular, though, struck me as odd. During his remarks, Senator Obama stated that he “shared the politics of Alfred E. Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Newman.” Now, obviously, the worst thing you can do with a joke is overanalyze it, but I had to wonder: exactly what were the politics that Barack Obama thought he had in common with Al Smith? Presumably he was not referring to his positions on social issues such as abortion or homosexual unions, which were not major issues in Al Smith’s time, but on which he no doubt would have differed from Senator Obama. Nor, presumably, was Obama referring to Smith’s opposition to Prohibition. Rather, I expect that in making this remark, Senator Obama was thinking that, as a Democrat, Al Smith would have approved of the economic proposals that Obama has put forward.