A busy day in Sotoland, not least because I delayed last night’s slumber to watch a bit of the Al Smith dinner, one of those institutions beloved by giggling plutocrats and clerics whose chasubles swell with the effort to keep the corruption from bursting. The reports you’ve read are correct: after a couple of drinks Hillary Clinton loosens up enough to tell jokes and get a chuckle or two; Donald J .Trump was a vulgar, stupid asshole. The estimable Charles Pierce wrote the most succinct summary:
The Trump campaign these days has all the inherent charm and optimism of a bankruptcy clearance sale. Off the media room at the debate on Wednesday night, the Trump children were romanced in the half-light by Sean Hannity while, over behind a partition, Sarah Palin entertained film crews of foreign lands. Les Americains, zey are so, how you say, tres amusantes. She stuck up for Trump’s announced plan to monkeywrench the election results. “Why wouldn’t-cha?” was clearly audible over the cacophony of questions asked in broken English and answered in obliterated English.
Three times elected governor of New York, Al Smith was a mighty figure during the Democrats’ post-Wilson and pre-FDR exile in the wilderness: a Catholic who opposed Prohibition, or, to use the era’s parlance, a wet Romanist, thus dooming his election chances against Herbert Hoover in the decade’s third consecutive electoral landslide loss. The success of Roosevelt in 1932 so embittered him that he became a charter member of the sad little organization called the American Liberty League, a forerunner of the Democrats who went Reagan in the 1970s and 1980s. He needs a new comprehensive biography. Maybe I’ll write one to entertain myself between now and November 8.