In the eyes of the civilized world outside of New York City, which is not to imply civilization everywhere outside of the city nor to exclude civilization from her, it might seem strange that the annual Al Smith Dinner would feature every four years the two leading presidential candidates (with the exception of 1996 and 2004):
1960 John F. Kennedy (D) Richard Nixon (R)
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) Barry Goldwater (R)
1968 Richard Nixon (R) Hubert Humphrey (D)
1972 Richard Nixon (R) George McGovern (D)
1976 Jimmy Carter (D) Gerald Ford (R)
1980 Ronald Reagan (R) Jimmy Carter (D)
1984 Ronald Reagan (R) Walter Mondale (D)
1988 George H. W. Bush (R) Michael Dukakis (D)
1992 Bill Clinton (D) George H. W. Bush (R)
1996 Bill Clinton (D) Bob Dole (R)
2000 George W. Bush (R) Al Gore (D)
2004 George W. Bush (R) John Kerry (D)
2008 Barack Obama (D) John McCain (R)
Cardinal Dolan is taking heat for inviting this year both the president and the presumptive Republican nominee. Before defending or denouncing His Eminence, it might be good to ask a few questions about the Dinner’s election year invitations:
Is it an endorsement of both candidates as though the outcome of the election does not matter?
Is it a non-endorsement of either candidate as if it were a presidential debate except that they only tell jokes?
Is it an endorsement of the political system?
Is it akin to election appearances at a State Fair with the exception that it raises millions of dollars for Catholic Charities?
Is it a statement that the Church ranks above the government