House Speaker Paul Ryan has caught a lot of flak for his mostly non-confrontational approach to President Donald Trump and his policies, but on Thursday night he finally let loose—in the name of comedy.
You may remember the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner as the forum where Trump and Hillary Clinton traded barbs last year—Trump’s jokes about his then-rival somewhat crossed the line, prompting attendees to boo him.
Ryan was this year’s keynote speaker at the white-tie dinner, which takes place annually to raise funds for Catholic charities, and he appeared to relish not holding back. Here’s a selection of his best lines, some of which roasted himself as much as the president:
- “Please, enough. You sound like the Cabinet when Donald Trump walks into the room.” [Delivered as attendees applauded him at the start of his speech.]
- “I want to put your mind at ease. You can relax about my remarks. I know last year that Donald Trump offended some people. I know his comments, according to critics, went too far. Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure and they said that his comments were offensive. Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”
- “At one point the president actually insulted me. I know that’s kind of surprising. He described me as a boy scout who’s boring to talk to. It didn’t hurt my feelings. What hurt my feelings was when my wife agreed with him.”
- “I really have learned so much. I’ve learned that in Catholicism, you are guilty until proven less guilty. I’ve learned that God is always listening, as is Vladimir Putin.”
- “Cardinal Dolan gave a benediction at President Trump’s inaugural. There was just this one kind of awkward moment when the cardinal talked about the infallible, enlightened supreme being. The president stood up and took a bow.”
- “The president will tweet: ‘300,000 at Al Smith dinner cheer mention of my name.’”
- “Every morning, I wake up in my office and scroll Twitter to see which tweets I will have to pretend that I didn’t see later.”
- “Every afternoon, former speaker John Boehner calls me up. Not to give advice. Just to laugh.”
There was also a joke at Clinton’s expense: “I’m from Wisconsin. It’s a great state to visit in the fall. Looking back, someone should have told Hillary. Speaking of which, I got Hillary’s new book. This sums up today’s politics perfectly. She took eight months, writing 10 hours a day, to explain what happened in 512 pages. The president explained it in a tweet. Hash tag, I won.”
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Ryan’s gags may have been sharply amusing, but they also came in a climate where top Republicans are increasingly rounding on the president.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker recently said Trump put the country “on the path to World War III.” Other members of the GOP have attacked him in more oblique terms. Just this week, Arizona Senator John McCain blasted “half-baked, spurious nationalism,” and former President George W. Bush warned of “nationalism distorted into nativism.”