The Crying Game: Does America Want Weepy Leaders?

“… this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall gather ’round for a hug and a good cry.”

– The Gettysburg Address as it would have been delivered had Lincoln been less emotionally cold


A few days ago I overheard a conversation at a party, and a woman who was no fan of the president couldn’t understand why, if Bush really cared about all the death and destruction around the world, he didn’t show it more. Maybe by now she’s seen this picture taken on Wednesday, but even if she has, I’m sure she’s thinking that those tears are phonier than the breasts on Malibu beaches.

Her comments reminded me of a column I read a few years ago entitled “Does Bush cry?”

So I sat down to consider whether or not America should consider electing weepier leadership.

Lack of outward emotion is often mistaken as heartlessness or a lack of caring by people who TiVo Oprah daily and think that the problem hasn’t been invented that can’t be solved by a jammy party, group hug and tearful confession. What’s more perplexing is that some of the people I’ve heard complain about Bush’s reactions would readily vote for Hillary Clinton, who herself has the warmth and emotional range of a Popsicle.

Imagine you’re on a commercial airline, and every time your flight hits severe turbulence your pilot gets on the intercom and screams like a woman who just saw a mouse in the kitchen. Would it ease your nerves to know that the pilot is “just like us” because he’s sharing our emotions?

Some view a crying leader as a weak one, and some view a leader who never cries in public as a cold one. I tend to view a weepy politician much like the female orgasm — it’s an emotional human reaction that can also, by the right practitioners, be convincingly faked. And if anybody knows fakery, it’s a politician.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a leader who cries at the drop of a hat. Take some of the greats as examples. What if Gen. Patton had altered one of his famous quotes to satisfy those demanding tears from their leaders? “An army is a team. It eats, sleeps, fights and cries as a team.”

How about Sir Winston Churchill? He’s remembered as one of the world’s great leaders, and he wasn’t known to bawl in public, nor chastised for failing to do so, for that matter. And it would have been easier for ol’ Winston, since bawling comes naturally when you’re jacked on Johnnie Walker Black Label while V1s explode nearby.

What if Churchill would have said, “We shall not fail or falter. We shall not weaken or tire,” then choked up and concluded with a weepy, “Clemmie, hand me a Kleenex”?

What if President Truman’s nickname was “Give ’em sobbing, Harry”?

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by how much they cry in public”?

What if Douglas MacArthur said “I shall return, after a good bewailing”? A bunch of Filipinos would have been suddenly a little more insecure, that’s what.

What if Reagan had said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this emotional wall between us”?

There have been leaders who cried, and with mixed results. Who? Well, Bill Clinton got misty a lot and was still politically successful. A TV camera does to Bill Clinton what chopping onions does to the rest of us. Clinton can turn on an emotional dime, vacillating between tears and laughter with such ease that he must have trained himself to do so by simultaneously yanking out nose hairs while watching “The Three Stooges.” Not all politicians, however, can pull off tears and survive.

Back in 1972, it was alleged that Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie wept on the steps of the Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, N.H., while defending his wife, whom that paper editorialized as “emotionally unstable.” Word of Muskie’s cry ruined his presidential hopes, and, in many cases, put a quick end to the practice of a politician defending his wife.

Crying is a natural and healthy human emotion, but a leader’s success shouldn’t be judged by how much waterworks they produce in public. In national emergencies, tragedies and all other sorts of nasty goings-on, a real leader needs to be focused on producing a real solution, not a saline solution.

That was an emotional subject. Somebody hand me a tissue.


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Author: Doug Powers

Doug Powers is a writer, editor and commentator covering news of the day from a conservative viewpoint with an occasional shot of irreverence and a chaser of snark. Townhall Media writer/editor. alum. Bowling novice. Long-suffering Detroit Lions fan. Contact: