At the Al Smith Dinner

John McCain gave a genuinely funny speech at last night’s annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner. In addition to the zingers, the speech included a striking tribute to his opponent. All in all, a spectacular speech. Part 1 is above, part 2 is here. Video of Senator Obama’s speech is accessible here.

McCain opened with “a major announcement.” He announced that he had fired all his senior advisers; their positions will now be filled by a man named Joe the Plumber. A little further along he said he sensed the presence of some secret supporters in the room. It was just a set-up line for one of the jokes, but it elicited a stirring affirmative response. I particularly appreciated this timely line: “I have fun with the media. We all know that the press is really an independent, civic-minded and non-partisan group … like ACORN.”

McCain’s tribute to Obama (in part 2 of the video) was a highlight of the speech:

I don’t want it getting out of this room, but my opponent is an impressive fellow in many way. 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, but he’s inspired 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. Today is a world away from the cruelty and prideful bigotry of that time – and good riddance.

I can’t wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.

Incidentally, Senators Clinton and Obama look very appealing reacting to the zingers in McCain’s speech.

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