CNN Hails ‘Singeing,’ ‘Traditional’ Hillary Roasting Unfunny Trump at Al Smith Dinner

Not surprisingly, CNN’s post-Al Smith Dinner analysis did not take kindly to Donald Trump on Thursday night as the assembled crew didn’t object to the crowd booing Trump and applauded Hillary Clinton’s remarks as “self-deprecating,” “singeing,” and “traditional” since she’s so familiar with dinners like this along with the elitist Gridiron Club. 

CNN senior political analyst and former Clinton administration official David Gergen received the first crack at it and he couldn’t recall there ever being boos at the dinner before warning that “there's such a risk here of sounding partisan, but I must tell you, there was a real difference between the two” candidates.

“Donald Trump was very much himself, but he didn't seem to know the difference between being light-hearted and heavy-handed and, you know, this is supposed to be a light-hearted kind of occasion,” Gergen complained as he condemned Trump’s “pretty tough jokes” on Clinton’s e-mail scandal and WikiLeaks showing her team’s contempt for Catholicism.

He did compliment Trump for his quip about wife Melania but he quickly pivoted to praise Clinton’s stand-up:

She was a much more traditional. I know people don't necessarily like tradition anymore. She was much more of the traditional kind of speaker. And at the Gridiron Club in Washington, their dinner, they say, you should singe, but never burn. And her jokes had much more of the singeing quality that I think some of them were lame.

AC360 host Anderson Cooper went next to chief political analyst Gloria Borger, who ruled that “Donald Trump missed the self-deprecating part” and other than the possibility that his speech-writing team didn’t know what was appropriate for the room, “it was sort of uncomfortable, to me, just watching it...but I felt Trump couldn't get away from the nastiness about her.”

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As for Clinton, Borger touted her as “a lot more light-hearted, but you could tell, sometimes, in looking at her, and she hid it more than she didn't, but you could tell sometimes looking at her, how kind of tough it was for her and you know, her Statue of Liberty joke...that's funny, but it's also serious.”

After Gergen credited Clinton for talking about the namesake behind the dinner in Al Smith, Inside Politics host John King took a page from Washington Post writer Dan Zak dithering away about Clinton’s (liberal) Christian faith (in a piece about her high school years):

Also, Anderson, kind of quickly, her faith experience. Donald Trump did not talk about his personal faith experience in any way at all. And she said, you know, I'm not a Methodist — I mean I'm not a Catholic, I'm a Methodist, but we share a lot of things in common. She does have a deeply rooted personal faith experience, that in this audience tonight — I don't know how it plays out the country — but in this audience tonight, it's important to be personal and connect yourself to the event you're at.

The relevant portions of the transcript from CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on October 20 can be found below.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360
October 20, 2016
9:40 p.m. Eastern

ANDERSON COOPER: David Gergen, let's start with you. You've watched a lot of these over the years, have you ever heard a candidate being booed at one of these?

DAVID GERGEN: No, I've been trying to figure that out. Have you ever heard booing at an Al Smith dinner, as we heard tonight, with Donald Trump? And the answer is, I don't know for sure, but I don't think so. You know, there's such a risk here of sounding partisan, but I must tell you, there was a real difference between the two. Donald Trump was very much himself, but he didn't seem to know the difference between being light-hearted and heavy-handed. And, you know, this is supposed to be a light-hearted kind of occasion. And he had several jokes that were sort of pretty tough jokes about her. You know, basically calling her corrupt, the e-mails, shows she pretends to have like the Catholic Church and that sort of thing. He was — I thought, particularly good when he talked about Melania. That was very — that was funny and humorous in the right spirit, but I think there was a reason the boos were there. And that was that he went over the line on several occasions. She was a much more traditional. I know people don't necessarily like tradition anymore. She was much more of the traditional kind of speaker. And at the Gridiron Club in Washington, their dinner, they say, you should singe, but never burn. And her jokes had much more of the singeing quality that I think some of them were lame.

COOPER: It was interesting, Gloria, because, I mean, both people have been there before. Donald Trump said he used to go with his father. Clearly, Hillary Clinton has been there over the years as well.

GLORIA BORGER: Yeah, and I think Donald Trump missed the self-deprecating part. He's been there maybe his joke writers haven't been there. But I think it was sort of uncomfortable, to me, just watching it. I don't know how you guys feel. But I felt Trump couldn't get away from the nastiness about her. Didn't joke about himself very much, except maybe at the beginning when he jokes at —

COOPER: Saying he was humble. 

BORGER: — that's right. That's right. People didn't think I could be good at this and Hillary was a lot more light-hearted, but you could tell, sometimes, in looking at her, and she hid it more than she didn't, but you could tell sometimes looking at her, how kind of tough it was for her. And you know, her Statue of Liberty joke, when she said, you know, he looks at the Statue of Liberty and he sees a four, maybe a five, that's funny, but it's also serious.

(....)

GERGEN: You know, the other part of this that I think distinguishes the two is that at the end, she had this statement that was about unity and about respect —

COOPER: And linking it back to Al Smith.

GERGEN: — and linking it back to Al Smith. That's much more the traditional — you know, you do the humor, but at the end you get serious. And you deliver a more emotional pitch and she had that and I think that helped — I think it elevated what she had to say and he did not go there.

KING: Also, Anderson, kind of quickly, her faith experience. Donald Trump did not talk about his personal faith experience in any way at all. And she said, you know, I'm not a Methodist — I mean I'm not a Catholic, I'm a Methodist, but we share a lot of things in common. She does have a deeply rooted personal faith experience, that in this audience tonight — I don't know how it plays out the country — but in this audience tonight, it's important to be personal and connect yourself to the event you're at.

Tell the Truth 2016 NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNN Anderson Cooper 360 Video Government & Press Anderson Cooper Gloria Borger David Gergen John King Donald Trump Melania Trump Hillary Clinton
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