NASHUA – “George Pataki,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to the former New York governor, “me being here today has made you the frontrunner….This is a great organization. How could you just get me and George?”
And so it went at the 24th Annual Wild Irish Breakfast Tuesday morning – a classic event that has seen national, state and local politicians poke fun at themselves and each other for the best of causes – the PLUS Company, Inc., a non-profit human services organization based in the Gate City.
“This is a weird breakfast, even by South Carolina standards,” Graham told a crowd of about 400 who packed a Radisson Hotel ballroom literally at the crack of dawn, “which is a compliment to y’all.”
On the dais this year were Graham and Pataki, both of whom are both potential presidential candidates and neither of whom would be considered at this early state in the “top tier,” if there is one, yet on the GOP side.
Then there was Gov. Maggie Hassan, who took some ribbing for being the only Democrat on stage, and outgoing Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. The event’s “blarney master” for the past 23 years, former Nashua Mayor and Executive Council Bernie Streeter was also at the head table, but for the first time passed the proverbial baton of host to Chris Williams, the soon-to-be former president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and likely candidate for mayor. And then of course, there was honorary Nashua Irishman Dan Chan, who for many years operated a Chinese restaurant in town.
Graham noted that Jeb Bush was not there, “and you better be glad or else it would be $10,000-a-plate.” And then, asking if there were any Democrats in the room, Graham joked, “You better be glad Scott Walker is not here or he’d beat you up.”
“(Ted) Cruz couldn’t be here because he’s building a fence with Canada, keeping his family out,” Graham said to laughs.
“Me and Hillary — if we had a presidential contest, the first thing I’d say to her is, ‘Let’s talk about emails.’ I didn’t think Bill and I had anything in common, but it turns out neither one of us have ever emailed Hillary.”
Graham said his friend, Sen. John McCain. “couldn’t be here because he’s planning to invade Switzerland. They have holes in their cheese and we’re tired of it.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, said Graham, “is Miss Snowplow 2015, by the way. She has a snow removal company and she works there on the weekend. If you can shovel snow in New Hampshire you can shovel ….he paused .…. in Washington.”
Next up was Pataki who admitted, “It’s hard for me to be funny this early in the morning. Actually, it’s hard for me to be funny anytime.”
He said he told his staff not to let him follow Graham. “My staff is so incompetent. But what can you expect? Half of them worked on the Romney campaign….This is kind of like a St. Patrick’s Day Hunger Games.”
“You’ve been doing this (breakfast) a very long time,” he told Streeter. “Almost as long as I’ve been thinking of running for President.”
Turning to Hassan, Pataki said, “I know you’ve been working very hard to get a casino here in New Hampshire. I know (New Jersey) Governor Christie will be back here in New Hampshire and he can get you a really good deal on an Atlantic City casino,” a reference to the gambling industries woes in the Garden State. “The only problem would be trying to get it across the George Washington Bridge.”
Pataki noted that when he was governor, Hillary Clinton was a senator from New York, “and she used to email me all the time. She was new to New York. Usually it was just, “Where do I eat at the state fair?’ or ‘Can you recommend a really good IT person in New York?’”
Another email from Clinton, he said, read, “George, I can’t believe Huckabee has been lying all these years. Taxes are lower in New York than Arkansas. Bill and I are saving a fortune. Thinking about using the money to buy an email server.’”
Another, he said, read, “Pataki – I’m leaving the White House dead broke. Can you line up a few six-figure speeches for me?”
And still another, he said, read, “Can you believe Bryan Williams stole my line about coming under fire while landing overseas?”
Hassan gave a few shots of her own.
“I understand that Scott Brown wanted to be here, but I understand he’s scouting real estate in South Carolina, because there might be an open Senate seat in 2016,” she said.
“Of course everyone knows Senator Graham is here because he is testing the waters for a potential run for President,” Hassan said. She noted that Graham – addressing the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton – has made it known that he has never sent an email.
“Now we know at least two things that very clearly separate Lindsey Graham from Hillary Clinton — experience with email, and the realistic possibility of being President.”
Turning to Pataki, she said, “I don’t’ mean to ignore Governor Pataki’s presence here in New Hampshire. After all, plenty of Republican primary voters are already doing that.”
Hassan also noted, “When one winter storm back in January was so bad that I had to declare a state of emergency and close down state government, the Republican Party issued a press release applauding the storm’s achievement.”