McCain Likes Ted Kennedy, Irish Drinking Jokes

John McCain was back in town yesterday for a Irish-American event at the New York Yacht Club. Niall Stanage has the details:

Senator John McCain stored up some ethnic backing for a possible 2008 presidential bid last night, stressing his support for immigration reform – and recounting a story about a pair of drunken Irish twins that some of us have heard before.

In his remarks, McCain said that America’s greatness is a product of the “blood and vitality that is poured into this nation by generation after generation” of immigrants. He also asserted that “we will win this fight” to change the immigration laws.

In a curious sideswipe, the Arizona senator contrasted the openness of the American tradition with France, “where you shovel off the Muslim youth to ghettos and every once in a while they come out and burn a few thousand cars.”

The rest is after the jump.

“What are you gonna do with the 11 million people?” McCain asked rhetorically, referring to illegal immigrants in the U.S. “Are you gonna send them all back? Mayor Bloomberg testified at a hearing last week that the economy of New York City would collapse. And I would argue that the economy of America would collapse.”

The Arizona Republican, who said he had just come from a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (“so anything after that is a relaxing moment”), also voiced ringing praise for Senator Edward Kennedy.

“He is a lion in winter and his word is good,” he said of the veteran Democrat.

McCain’s brief speech to the 9th Annual “Wall Street 50″ dinner – an event run by Irish America magazine to celebrate achievement in the business world – also included a complaint about some of the rhetoric used by foes of immigration reform:

“We shouldn’t be impugning those who come here for the same reason our forefathers came here: because we wanted a better life for ourselves and our families,” he said.

McCain was presented with a Waterford Crystal hawk – not a dove, as Irish America publisher Niall O’Dowd noted – before departing for Washington DC.

McCain largely avoided subjects other than immigration, though he did make a glancing reference to “unprovoked attacks on Israel.”

In any case, McCain got the best reaction of the night for his Irish joke, which, in a ground-breaking exclusive, is reprinted in full below:

“I have to tell the story of a bar here in New York City. It’s almost empty and one guy comes in and he sits down beside another guy at the end of the bar. And he says to him: ‘Where are you from?’
‘I’m from Ireland.’
‘Really? I’m from Ireland too’.
“Great, let me buy you a drink. . .Whereabouts in Ireland are you from?’
‘Dublin.’
‘I’m from Dublin too.’
‘Where did you go to school?’
“I went to St. Mary’s.’
‘Wow! I went to St. Mary’s too. When did you come to America?’
’1970.’
‘I don’t believe it. I came here in 1970 too’.
And then another guy walks in and says to the bartender, ‘What’s going on there?’
‘And the bartender says, ‘Oh, it’s just the O’Reilly twins getting drunk again.’”

Perhaps you had to be there.