NPR : News

Obama, Romney Trade Jokes; Critics Aim At Obama's 'Optimal' Comment

Play associated audio

President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, as predicted, took on the challenge of being funny last night at the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York City — which as we said Thursday has become a quadrennial must-stop on the campaign trail for those seeking the White House.

As NPR's Scott Horsley reports, they "added a laugh track to their campaigns."

Obama, for example, made fun of his own much-criticized performance in the first presidential debate:

"Turns out millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn't focus on the first debate," he said, "I happen to be one of them."

Among Romney's one-liners was a shot at the news media:

"I've already seen early reports from tonight's dinner. Headline: 'Obama embraced by Catholics. Romney dines with rich people.' "

Also last night, Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart aired a pre-recorded interview with the president. Full clips of the conversation are posted here.

The one line that conservative critics of the president are zeroing in from his appearance on the show: Obama said, "when four Americans get killed, it's not optimal." The critics — including, quite prominently, the Drudge Report — are saying that Obama was slighting the significance of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead.

The Daily Show has posted a separate clip that includes the "optimal comment." Stewart begins the discussion of the Benghazi attack and the administration's response to it at the 2:50 mark of the clip. As he begins his remarks, Obama calls it a "tragic event."

At the 4:45 mark, Stewart talks of the confused and conflicting accounts given by the administration in the days after the Sept. 11 attack and says "even you would admit, it was not the optimal response."

To which Obama replies, "if four Americans get killed, it's not optimal and we're going to fix it."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


From Trembling Teacher To Seasoned Mentor: How Tim Gunn Made It Work

Gunn, the mentor to young designers on Project Runway, has been a teacher and educator for decades. But he spent his childhood "absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school," he says.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

It's the season of food, and British food writer Bee Wilson has a book on how our food tastes are formed. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with her about her new book, "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat."

Osceola At The 50-Yard Line

The Seminole Tribe of Florida works with Florida State University to ensure it that its football team accurately presents Seminole traditions and imagery.

Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.