When a politician steps into the role of the Speaker of the House, the worst thing he can do is cry. Actually, maybe it’s the best thing. Or maybe it doesn’t really matter either way.
It’s easy to get confused when the Internet is buzzing about soon-to-be-Speaker John Boehner’s tears seen ’round the world. On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Boehner broke down a few times, most notably while choking through something about achieving the American Dream.
I was talking—trying to talk—about the fact that I’ve been chasing the American Dream my whole career. There’s some things that are very difficult to talk about: family, kids. I can’t go to a school anymore. I used to go to a lot of schools. And you see these little kids running around. … Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American Dream, like I did—it’s important.
A few bloggers called bull on Boehner’s crying outburst. John Amato of Crooks and Liars called Boehner a “pathological cryer [sic],” saying,
Can you imagine if Democratic politicians acted this way? FOX News would be running stories 24/7 about how al-Qaeda and all the lone wolf cells would be emboldened to terrorism because of their weakness. It would be non-stop.
Whether the emotions were fake or not, it was interesting to see the media’s reaction to his tears. The responses bring up questions about whether it’s appropriate for politicians and other powerful figures to cry.
I’ve identified three main camps:
1. Some writers suggest that Boehner and other politicians take a page from Melissa Manchester’s book, saying don’t cry out loud—it only makes you look weak. In 2008, Hillary Clinton suffered criticism for “breaking down” on the campaign trail.
And the (questionable) political authorities over at The View had a (questionable) discussion yesterday, agreeing that the same rules about crying should be applied to all politicians, male or female, Republican or Democrat.
2. Then there are the commentators who appreciate the way that Boehner’s tears “humanized” him. Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and Dan Amira at New York magazine called it a nice change of pace for politicians, with Amira noting,
It would be easy to mock Boehner for his uncontrollable, unsightly blubbering, but you know what? It’s actually pretty refreshing. Here’s a politician who cares so much that his standard reaction to the merest hint of sentimentality is to break down in tears. We’ll take that any day over the cynicism and phoniness typical of many other politicians.
3) But in the end, why do we have to attribute any special significance to a few good tears? After all, politicians are people, and like all people, their emotions get overwhelming.
Can we all get over it?
Readers here at the Good Men Project aren’t so quick to say that boys don’t cry. Just a few months ago, Tom Matlack collected stories from men who cry when they need to, without fear of being called a crybaby or being exalted as a man in touch with their sensitive side.