Monday, January 28, 2008

The Art of Crying

PerryScope: Perry Diaz

After her loss to Barack Obama in Iowa, Hillary Clinton, who was stumping in New Hampshire for the first-in-the nation primary, was in a coffee shop taking questions from a group of women when someone asked her, "My question is very personal, how do you do it? How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?"

Surprised at the nature of the question, Clinton was taken aback but she regained her poise and responded, jokingly, "You know, I think, well luckily, on special days I do have help. If you see me every day and if you look on some of the Web sites and listen to some of the commentators they always find me on the day I didn't have help. It's not easy." Then she got emotional and said, "It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, just don't want to see us fall backwards." And with quivering voice and tears in her eyes, she said, "You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political. It's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it." Whoa! Suddenly, Hillary unmasked herself and for about 10 seconds she demonstrated that she's just like any other human being -- she has emotion.

It is interesting to note that the woman who made Clinton cry -- apparently unimpressed by Clinton's display of emotion -- admitted to the press that she voted for Barack Obama. However, political pundits believed that a lot of women voters were touched and may have caused the surge of votes for Clinton in the New Hampshire primary. Prior to the "crying" episode, polls showed that Obama had a 10-percent lead over Clinton. But on election day, Clinton snatched victory from defeat and beat Obama by two percent. Did the crying episode do the trick in swaying Obama supporters, particularly the women, to switch to Clinton?

As we all know, "crying" has always been used effectively, either "straight from the heart" or by design. Either way, children are good at it. With grown-ups, it's a different story. Generally, crying among women is acceptable. In some eastern cultures, crying by men is acceptable. But in western cultures, crying among men is generally perceived as a sign of weakness. However, there were great men who have cried in public. The last four U.S. presidents have done that.

On January 11, 2007, at a White House ceremony, a tear rolled down President George W. Bush's cheek as he posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Corporal Jason Dunham, a 22-year-old marine hero in Iraq.

On December 4, 2006, the president's father, former President George H.W. Bush broke down in tears when he addressed lawmakers, top administrators, and state workers in Tallahassee, Florida. Bush was talking about leadership and broke down when he mentioned his son Governor Jeb Bush as an example of leadership on the way he handled his loss in the gubernatorial election in 1994.

Time Magazine's controversial March 26, 2007, cover showed a photo of the late President Ronald Reagan with a tear running down his cheek from his right eye. The cover line was "How the Right Went Wrong." The tear looked real. However, there were two credits for the photo: David Hume Kennerly for the photo and Tim O'Brien for the "tear." Evidently, the photo was electronically altered to show a tear rolling down Reagan's cheek. But on numerous occasions during his presidency, Reagan had been photographed with tears in his eyes. And the American people loved it.

What do Americans think of their presidents crying? Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush have received positive reactions when they cried. But it hurt Sen. Edmund Muskie when he ran for President in 1972. It was reported by the media that he cried defending his wife from criticism during a press conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. Although it was not clear if he actually cried, he lost the presidential race.

But the most dramatic "crying" event was in 1952 when Richard Nixon ran for Vice President. In his celebrated "Checkers" speech, which was televised nationwide, Nixon said: "One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don't they'll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something – a gift – after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he'd sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers."

And then, with quivering mouth and wet eyes, he said, "And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we're gonna keep it." After his speech, he sobbed.

The issue which prompted his "Checkers" speech was that he was caught taking money from a slush fund created by his supporters to pay for expenses not covered by his senatorial allowance. However, in spite of the "slush fund" scandal, Nixon won the election! Did Checkers get him elected or was it because he was the running mate of Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the popular World War II hero?

While crying men are sometimes perceived as strong in character, crying women are perceived differently. In the case of Hillary Clinton, her crying in New Hampshire got the sympathy of women voters; however, she was roundly criticized by the media as "too emotional" for the job of President of the United States. Is there a double standard here? Or did Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush practiced the art of crying?

Next time Hillary would feel like crying in front of television, she should tell a story of how she felt when her two dogs, Zeke and Buddy, died in two separate car accidents. It would certainly be a good match for Nixon's "Checkers" speech.