Blogs > HNN > Artifacts: When does it help to cry in New Hampshire?

Jan 9, 2008 4:51 pm

Artifacts: When does it help to cry in New Hampshire?

As Hillary Clinton's tearful moment becomes historical and political legend, it is worth remembering the famous or infamous moment in the 1972 campaign, when Edmund Muskie cried - -or wiped ice and snow from his eyes -- as he defended his wife's honor. His campaign crashed after that and this supposed moment of weakness was blamed. Of course, in the intervening 36 years, it's become far more acceptable for men to cry in our culture. Still, Hillary's tear-stained rise and Muskie's tear-stained fall raise fascinating questions about gender expectations, leadership models, and how much vulnerability we want to see in leaders, if they are male -- or female.

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Maarja Krusten - 1/12/2008

You also have to look at Hillary Clinton's moist eyes in the context of Obama's "you're likeable enough, Hillary" comment and the "Iron My Shirt" stunt. Had Obama looked at Hillary and made his comment with a broad smile and perhaps even a little wink, it might have gone over differently than it did. But he said it while looking down at his notes. From what I've read, observers say that made the comment fall flat or even backfire for him. And the "Iron My Shirt" thing was just dumb. Again, from what I've read, many women voters reacted to the three things as somehow inter-related -- they tapped in to some of their own past experiences -- and not just to the tears.

As to Muskie, you're right that things have changed. Look at the talk show culture that developed since 1972. People started going on shows such as Oprah or Jerry Springer to discuss in detail their often very emotional reactions to events in their lives. Some young people seem to think nothing of pouring out their reactions to things on blogs and social networking sites. A lot of barriers have come down since 1972. People are much more accustomed these days to the public airing out of feelings by men and women than they were in 1972.