How Donald Trump Misread the Room

Oct 21, 2016

If you only read one thing: Donald Trump broke the first rule of public speaking Thursday: always know your audience. There is only one way to describe his performance at the Al Smith Dinner, a New York tradition that every four years features the major party nominees for a night of light-hearted humor to benefit Catholic charities: He bombed. The billionaire former reality show star misread the room of New York elites and the moment—which is used to playful reading and self-deprecating jokes but not political invective. He opened by comparing himself to the son of God and it went downhill from there, fast. By the end of his remarks he was being booed by the white-tie and begowned audience in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel. He called his rival anti-Catholic and corrupt. “I don’t know who they’re angry at, Hillary, you or I,” Trump said. The answer was clear. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, delivered on the goal for the evening, with some laughs at her own expense and a few at her opponents'.

Clinton's best line: "Every year, this dinner brings together a collection of sensible, committed, mainstream Republicans—or, as we now like to call them—Hillary supporters."

Trump's best line: "You know, the president told me to stop whining, but I really have to say, the media is even more biased this year than ever before — ever. You want the proof? Michelle Obama gives a speech and everyone loves it — it’s fantastic. They think she’s absolutely great. My wife, Melania, gives the exact same speech — and people get on her case."

But the line of the night belonged to Alfred Smith IV, the master of ceremonies, commenting on the sad-but-true takeaway from the upcoming election: "If you were born into immense wealth or if your husband was president you can accomplish anything."

Donald Trump is still not backing off his refusal to commit to honoring the results of the November election, and made light of criticism that he is undermining American democracy at a rally Thursday. Meanwhile, he walked out on a local news interview questioning him about controversial comments he has made.

President Obama stepped up his criticism of Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans for their refusal to walk away from him Thursday, as he continues to be one of Clinton's best surrogates on the campaign trail. First Lady Michelle Obama spent the day firing up voters in Arizona, a GOP-leaning state that Trump has put in play. And Clinton trolls Trump in her FEC report.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

How Trump Plans to Win-Even If He Loses the Election
Facing a binary election, Trump looks for a third option [TIME]

What Hillary Clinton’s Insiders Know That Voters Don’t-Yet
What Wikileaks tells us about her [TIME]

Clicking ‘Like’ on the First Facebook War
TIME's Mark Thompson on the impact of live access to the battle for Mosul

President Obama Blasts Marco Rubio and GOPers for Supporting Donald Trump
‘Come On, Man!’ [TIME]

On the Airwaves, Obama Stepping Up for Down-Ballot Democrats Like Never Before
Obama rediscovers the Democratic Party [Washington Post]

Obama: Health Care Law Worked, But Improvements Needed
Admits change is needed [Associated Press]

Donald Trump: 'I Will Totally Accept' Election Results 'If I Win'
Not backing down [CNN]

Sign up for POLITICS and more. View sample

Sound Off

"I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all of the people of the United States that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election, if I win." — Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Ohio, making light of the criticism that he is undermining a foundational principle of American democracy

"People look at the Statue of Liberty and they see a proud symbol of our history as a nation of immigrants, a beacon of hope for people around the world. Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a “four.” Maybe a “five” if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair." — Hillary Clinton at the Al Smith dinner

Bits and Bites

Joe Klein: Beware the Toxic Sequel to Donald Trump’s Flailing Presidential Campaign [TIME]

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s 5 Biggest Punchlines at the Al Smith Dinner [TIME]

The Final Presidential Debate of 2016 Was Watched by 71.6 Million People [TIME]

Donald Trump Walked Off of an Interview After a Question About Racism [TIME]

Hillary Clinton spent $66 million just to air ads in September [Washington Post]

Read the Transcript of Donald Trump’s Speech at the Al Smith Dinner [TIME]

Read the Transcript of Hillary Clinton’s Speech at the Al Smith Dinner [TIME]

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.