The tracks of Hillary’s tears
I have to confess that whenever I consider writing about the presidential campaign, I get nervous. I’m worried that my ignorance will show itself, that I’ll get some detail terribly wrong and my readers will sniff, “Excuse me, Ms. Bradley, but if you read a newspaper or knew how to turn on a television you’d know that Iowa is right smack in the middle of the United States, and not ‘floating on an oil slick somewhere in the Caspian Sea.’ Also, Iowa’s main crop is corn, not syphilis.” Well, excuse me, Ms. I Read Stuff to Learn, but I was testing you and also I turn on my television like everyone else, by jabbing at the magic box with my jabbing stick.
So then when I worry about my ignorance, I read too much, and I suffer Pundit Overload and I think, does the world need one more opinion? Hey, readers: I, like so many others, believe that Kucinich is unfairly marginalized. And hey, Fred Thompson, you know what you are? Jowly and, for an actor, strangely uncharismatic! I said it first!
On the other hand, I don’t think you need me to cover another study on, say, women being different than men, or ice cream being delicious. We are, and it is, and…and heck, let’s talk elections!
Let’s start with a topic I know something about, which is crying. As a well-known crybaby, I’m sensitive about people being made fun of for crying. It makes me cry, frankly. Most things can start up the ol’ waterworks. Watching other people cry often makes me well up.
And yet Hillary tearing up on the campaign trail pretty much left me cold.
Much as I want to be, I’m not a Hillary supporter. I want to like her. I actually think she’s pretty likable, despite the media informing us that she’s a shrill harridan. She’s a fellow Wellesley alum, and for that reason alone—much less the whole woman thing—I feel that I’m letting down my sisters. But in order to get where she is, she headed straight for the political center, and that’s not a place I want my candidate to be. I’m over here on the left, you see; in my perfect world, Kucinich would get the glory and the respect, and Huckabee would be roundly mocked for heavy reliance on Chuck Norris. Hillary is just too beholden to corporate interests for my comfort. She recently proved that she’s not above fear-mongering, either; she recently all but said that a vote for Obama would be a vote for an Al-Qaeda attack, and it turned my stomach. We’ve had enough of that for the past eight years, thank you.
Like so many others, I was unnerved by the pile-on she suffered after her loss in Iowa, the immense glee that pundits everywhere expressed in her third place finish. But after watching the infamous Video of Tears, in which she’s asked how she does it (actually, the full question included the question, “who does your hair?” but that part seems to have been cut out of all the video clips) and she lets down a little of that steely demeanor, the affinity I had begun to feel for her slipped away. Was it because I thought it was a calculated move? Sort of. I think her emotions got the better of her for a moment, and instead of reeling them back in she realized she could use them to her advantage. Look at how carefully she releases a hint of tears. Her eyes glisten, but her voice barely cracks. The lady’s in control.
Mostly, though, it’s why she’s crying. I’m going to echo Maureen Dowd, and I never thought I’d say that: her tears are borne of self-pity. Is she crying for the death toll in Iraq? For the uninsured? Because those tears, I could get behind. No, she’s crying for her lost opportunity. That’s the moment she chose to show her vulnerable side. When her campaign was at stake.
Now, the initial uproar after the footage was aired over a woman “losing control” and “breaking down” was ludicrous; the ideas that tears are weak or feminine is offensive and silly. Edwards climbing on the bandwagon to declare that “I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business” won him no points with me. (And yes, I know that he admits before saying this that he hadn’t seen the footage of Hillary, but please. He heard that she had shown some emotion, and he jumped on that as a moment of weakness.)
But the notion that Hillary’s display somehow humanizes her doesn’t wash for me, either. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post (in the most treacly op-ed I have read in a long time) called Hillary’s emotional moment “maternal,” and argued she did not cry for herself but for “the country.” If you say so, Richard, but just like with any narcissistic parent, for Hillary it’s the same thing. She weeps for us, stupid irresponsible us, who might make the wrong choice by not realizing how much we need her. That’s the sort of mother who will also tell us anything she wants to because she knows what’s best, who’s not above manipulation for the greater good. And that mother, we don’t need.