Please visit the new home of Majikthise at bigthink.com/blogs/focal-point.

« Recommended pre-RNC reading: Army riot control doctrine | Main | Hilzoy's case against Clinton »

January 13, 2008

Presidents cry, big deal

BushtearsxlargeFor Maureen Dowd and all those vapid pundits who jumped on Hillary Clinton for letting her voice tremble in New Hampshire, this quote from Theodore Roosevelt seems apropos:

"It's not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the doer of deeds might have done them better. Instead, the credit belongs to the man in the arena whose face is marred by sweat and blood and tears."

Man or woman, as the case may be...

Presidents and presidential candidates tear up from time to time. It's no big deal.

Hillary Clinton's voice breaks in New Hampshire and we get endless "analysis" of Hillary's mental stability and questions about whether she's "tough enough" to be president. Mitt Romney's have welled up twice in one week, and it didn't lead anyone to question his emotional stability or his fitness for command.

Tears are as old as the presidency itself:

George Washington "was obliged to wipe his eyes several times," according to the account of one Dr. Cogswell, at his heady arrival in New York for his swearing-in as the first President. And Teddy White wrote that "the elegant and controlled" John F. Kennedy had "tears in his eyes" the night he was elected in 1960.  [NYT, 1993]

Sitting president William Howard Taft burst into tears on the campaign trail in 1912, exclaiming to a reporter, "Roosevelt was my closest friend."

Bill Clinton shed tears in 1993 at the swearing in of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Former president George H. W. Bush wept openly in 2006. 

Modern campaign coverage is a numbers game. Train a camera on anyone long enough, and you're bound to observe some anomalous reactions.  The professionals call these "gaffes" or "moments." Get that Rorschach footage and you can peddle dimestore psychology as news.

Photo caption: Tears run from the eyes of President Bush during a Medal of Honor ceremony for Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham at the White House in Jan. 2007.--USA Today

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c61e653ef00e54ff14af78834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Presidents cry, big deal:

Comments

Jesus, Lindsay you scared the crap out of me! No one needs to see that ghastly botfly up close.

Yeah, that "oh look she's a woman, she's crying and that's why she got the panty vote in New Hampshire" is exactly the sort of horseshit we've come to expect from the punditeros.

Ugh. I just took another look. It does seem to be seeping some kind of fluid from its eyespots.

In twenty years, all this "ZOMG Hillary Crying!" crap should seem like the media's most absurd self-parody. Kind of sad (and infuriating) to know that it's not.

Dowd has this weird fixation on Clinton where she can do no right. It's sort of the kryptonite version of Reagan-worship. In fact, Down seems to enjoy tearing down powerful women. The one time I enjoyed it is when she got the knives out for Judith Miller.

and, amusingly enough, Taft was lying.

Does this mean men are prone to pretending to cry to manipulate the voters?

Dirk Gently call them "Punmuffins;" those lame and stupid talking-head insiders that are all making us increasingly sicker. Sicker of them, that is.

How ironic that men, who used not to be allowed to, are now permitted to cry, but if women cry, they are either out of their minds or being manipulative.

I could care less about tears.
I don't like her policy.

"I could care less about tears.
I don't like her policy."

I don't either, but that's not what this is about.

Were any of these guys bitches? No. I rest my case.

julia, what makes you think Taft was lying? Everything I've read indicates that he was entirely sincere. I followed your link and found nothing to the contrary.

Bill Kristol claimed that Clinton's brief choke-up was planned and that she was acting. The right wing obsession with the Clintons as some sort of Machiavellian manipulators is alive and kicking. Coming from a neocon the irony is biting.

It's so bogus, what else can you say?

I wonder when Dowd (or Chris Matthews) is going to start commenting on hot flashes

the anti hillary/bill obsession is the biggest reason i have no respect for dowd.

I don't want Hillary to win the nomination, but I want her to lose for good reasons -- not because of a right-wing vendetta and sexist news coverage.

I got a lot more out of reading Steinem on Clinton. I despise Dowd's cynical tone. It makes me want to vote for Hillary. And I am basically for John Edwards.

>Bill Kristol claimed that Clinton's brief choke-up was planned and that she was acting. The right wing obsession with the Clintons as some sort of Machiavellian manipulators is alive and kicking.

This is actually bigger than it might seem. A creepy knot that combines black-and-white thinking with ultimately mystical appeals to "motives" has come to all but dominate political discourse at times of stress. (Not sure where the current wave originated, but I give the nod to dear old Ronnie R., who got the ball rolling that it was better to look good and sound good than to do good and be good.) The underlying idea is that if one has impure motives (which cannot be fully known, to anybody), then one comes up with distasteful, tainted policies. To hell with whether or not it's good or bad policy, works well or not, the motives were bad so it's bad policy. And the obverse is also true -- pure heart, good intentions leads to good policy, whether it works for shit or not. Must be defended.

This has proved to be an oddly seductive way of framing not just minor matters, but major political decisions. But it's a horribly confused way to reason about what should be done.

Whatever happened to the common sense that there can be semi-rascals who are nevertheless premium leaders, concerned about and beneficial to those they lead? What about the innate value of what somebody is proposing and to hell with why they are doing it?

>Steinem on Clinton

Oh, Jeeze, I thought that was a real low. Poured gasoline on the smoldering race/gender firefight that's going on with Democrats right now and that can have no positive fallout. If the principals have a lick of self-preservation sense it should end immediately.

--Bill Kristol claimed that Clinton's brief choke-up was planned and that she was acting. The right wing obsession with the Clintons as some sort of Machiavellian manipulators is alive and kicking. Coming from a neocon the irony is biting.--

I've heard a number of lefties making the same comment about Hillary's "human moment".

And you're starting to hear a fair amount of Machiavellian commentary about the Clintons not just from the left-- but from black radio talk shows.

--
The instances of politicians crying are of interest. But there's only one example cited where the tears came because the politician appeared to be about to lose something that was dearly wanted--not tears resulting from great good news of some kind, not the tears of sadness about something terrible that happened.

These tears came because she had lost the imbecilic Iowa caucus and appeared headed for a loss in a New Hampshire election. Personal ambition about to go down the tubes--hardly worthy to compare with any other example cited.

>I've heard a number of lefties making the same comment about Hillary's "human moment".

As I've said, it's an irrelevant point no matter who's making it.

I think a lot of commentators are overplaying Hillary's emotions in order to cover their own asses. They couldn't predict the outcome in NH, now they're casting about for something late-breaking to explain why their doom and gloom predictions of for the Clinton campaign failed to come true.

Paul Krugman fearlessly nailed it:

>So I finally watched the now-famous clip of Hillary Clinton getting emotional — and my reaction was ...

>That’s it?

>That’s the 1 minute 51 seconds that launched a thousand commentaries?

>I think this thing does call for some serious psychological analysis, not of the candidate — who looked and sounded like a normal person — but of the pundits who have turned Hillary into the object of their obsession.

Not sure where the current wave originated, but I give the nod to dear old Ronnie R., who got the ball rolling that it was better to look good and sound good than to do good and be good.

You’re giving R.R. too much credit. He had good political instincts, but I think they were more like a migratory bird’s internal compass: got him to where he wanted to go, but without actual understanding of how. I think it started earlier than that with seductively treacly, sentimental, shit like “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” spoon-fed to what eventually became a nation of soppy, uncritical television zombies. (Stephan Pinker has an interesting essay in the NY Times that starts with a comparison of actual useful good versus perceived good done by Bill Gates, Norman Borlaug, and Mother Theresa.)


Whatever happened to the common sense that there can be semi-rascals who are nevertheless premium leaders, concerned about and beneficial to those they lead?

I dunno, semi-rascal but more or less effective, was what was once the standard definition of a good and useful politician. Perhaps the events of the 20th Cent. –WWI & II, civil rights struggle, etc.- have cast everything in too Manichean a light?

Considering what the primary system has delivered lately -Reagan/Dubya- I’m almost willing to go back to the time when presidential candidates were chosen out of sight in smoke-filled rooms by cynical, bourbon-sipping pols. I don’t want a fucking saint for president; I want someone who can get me health care if and when I lose my job.

The comments to this entry are closed.