America loves to make fun of its politicians. And it is even more to our liking when the politicians make fun of each other. After a bruising, no holds barred campaign, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump gave America something to laugh about.
It's an old tradition: the annual Al Smith dinner to raise money for Catholic charities at the Waldorf. And, like many other candidates in past elections, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exchanged barbs before an audience of wealthy New Yorkers.
While some jokes fell a little flat, much of the humor was on the mark. Thus, when Trump, in a rare moment, made fun of himself, or at least, his wife, the audience laughed heartily.
Trump said most of the media was biased. And he continued: "You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it. My wife, Melania, gives the same speech and people get on her case."
Hillary Clinton made fun of herself when she declared: "I took a break from my rigorous nap schedule to be here. Usually, I charge a lot for speeches like this." She also noted that Trump, on his teleprompters, was "translating from the original Russian."
Humor in politics goes back many years. One man who gave Americans something to laugh about was author Mark Twain. He didn't like Washington. "There is no distinctly native American criminal class," he wrote," except Congress." Although the internet hadn't been invented yet,
Twain said: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
Twain had a bitter edge to his comments. "The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog."
He enjoyed making fun of both parties. "The Democrats are the party of government activism, the party that says the government can make you richer, smarter, taller and get the chickweed out of your lawn. Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then get elected and prove it."
Ambrose Bierce wrote: "Vote: the instrument and symbol of a freeman's power to make a fool of himself and a wreck of his country."
One of the most vicious comments in a campaign was made by Jack Kemp: "In a recent fire, Bob Dole's library burned down. Both books were lost. And he hadn't even finished coloring one of them."
One of them most telling comments a candidate made about an opponent was when Ronald Reagan, a master at wielding a political stiletto, said of Walter Mondale: "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
There are some dire predictions about the future in the wake of the many nasty things that the presidential candidates have said about each other.
But history shows that Americans always get over it. Fierce humor is part of the American psyche. We can and will live with it in the years to come.
BY: Gabe Pressman
Senior Correspondent at NBC New York