Can Trump, Clinton put aside acrimony at charity dinner?

Posted at 4:51 PM, Oct 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 16:51:30-04

(CNN) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump wouldn’t even shake hands on the debate stage Wednesday night.

But Thursday, the two are expected to poke fun of themselves — and gently chide each other — at a fundraiser for Catholic charities that’s been a mainstay in presidential politics.

Clinton and Trump will sit one seat away from each other at the Al Smith dinner, separated only by Archbishop Timothy Dolan. The event begins just before 9 p.m. ET in Manhattan, with Trump speaking first.

Historically, the dinner has been a good-natured roast — one with plenty of jokes, to be sure, but none that break with the white-tie gala’s sense of decorum.

Thursday night could be different, for one simple reason: Clinton and Trump loathe each other.

The two declined to shake hands at the beginning and end of Wednesday night’s presidential debate, one where Trump called Clinton “such a nasty woman” and Clinton called Trump a “puppet.”

Trump, in particular, has struggled to laugh at jokes told at his expense.

He famously glowered at President Barack Obama, who ribbed him at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner over his years of stoking false conspiracy theories about Obama’s birthplace.

“He can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?” Obama said then. Minutes later, he took a swipe at Trump’s role as host of “Celebrity Apprentice.”

Trump has also complained about Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on “Saturday Night Live.” After last weekend’s take on Trump’s performance in the second debate, he tweeted: “Watched Saturday Night Live hit job on me.Time to retire the boring and unfunny show. Alec Baldwin portrayal stinks. Media rigging election!”

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner — held the third Thursday of every October — is a tradition in American presidential politics and marks the last time the two nominees share a stage.

Named for the former New York governor and first Catholic to receive a major party nomination when Democrats tapped him to oppose Herbert Hoover in 1928, the Manhattan event has an attendance of more than 1,500 donors who give more than $3,000 each to Catholic charities for tickets.

Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush joked about the well-heeled crowd in 2000, when he attended as the Republican nominee.

“This is an impressive crowd. The haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base,” he said.

The dinner became a mainstay in presidential politics in 1960, when both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon attended.

“I had announced earlier this year that, if successful, I would not consider campaign contributions as a substitute for experience in appointing ambassadors. Ever since I made that statement, I have not received one single cent from my father,” Kennedy joked about his politically-connected family that year.

In 2000, Al Gore told another memorable joke — at the expense of Clinton, nearing the end of her successful Senate run in New York.

“I did think it was effective when I weaved in stories of real people in the audience and their everyday challenges. Like the woman here tonight whose husband is about to lose his job. She’s struggling to get out of public housing and get a job of her own. Hillary Clinton, I want to fight for you,” he said.

In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain joked about media perceptions of then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. “Maverick I can do, but Messiah is above my pay grade,” he said.

At the last Al Smith dinner featuring presidential candidates — 2012 — Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney joked about themselves and each other.

“Usually when I get invited to gatherings like this, it’s just to be the designated driver,” said Romney, who is a Mormon.

In a jab at Obama, he pointed to the national debt, saying: “By the way, in the spirit of Sesame Street, the President’s remarks tonight are brought to you by the letter O and the number 16 trillion.”

Obama poked fun at his own lackadaisical performance in their first presidential debate. “I felt really well rested after the nice long nap I had in the first debate,” he said.

And he chided Romney’s vast personal wealth. “Early today, I went shopping at some stores in Midtown,” Obama said. “I understand Gov. Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown.”