To Weep or Not to Weep

In Iowa, Newt Gingrich teared up while talking about his mother.

Before a bit of commentary, here’s the video:

Gingrich was talking about his mother, so he’ll probably get a pass. Telling that story about his mother while maintaining a Norman Bates-ish demeanor would have been creepy and cold, so if anything it helped humanize Newt and connect him with his audience.

In the bigger picture, when it comes to our elected leaders crying — especially in the office of president or those who seek it — people tend to be skeptical. Why? Because political tears are like female orgasms: properly motivated participants can be convincingly fake them. Bill Clinton is the first that comes to mind. Clinton got fake-misty quite often 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 Three Stooges movies.

Hillary Clinton once teared up on the campaign trail in 2008, but that didn’t cost her the nomination. George W. Bush cried — so did his father. John Boehner’s legendary for crying. Political weeping has a long and distinguished history. I’ve even heard that William Howard Taft once cried for three days after the White House chef informed him that they were out of lobster Newburg.

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.

As for Gingrich’s tears, they will neither harm nor help him. He’s been trending downward in Iowa and this probably won’t change things.