Ohio Congressman and House Speaker-elect John Boehner is our town crier. Not a cry-baby crier, but an 'It might be politically expedient to show my softer side' kind of crier.
He cries when he talks about his childhood, his family, Iraq war veterans, schoolchildren, and how he's pulled himself up by his bootstraps to achieve his version of the American dream. He cried when he became the most powerful Republican in America and, most recently, he choked up when he was interviewed on "60 Minutes."
So when did weepiness become the new power tool on Capitol Hill?
Gone are the days when a man crying in public was seen as weak. If former U.S. Senator and 1972 presidential candidate Edmund Muskie
were alive today, his few purported tears over attacks on his wife's character wouldn't register a blip on our collective emotional psyche. In our Oprah Winfrey "it's good to be in touch with your feelings" world, it might actually have helped propel him into the White House.
Uber-conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck of "The View
" believes we should admire a leader who can be as open about his emotions as Congressman Boehner. That might be true, but would we be as admiring of a woman who said on national television that she had stopped visiting schools because being around kids made her weep? (And let's also note that Hasselbeck's "View" colleague Barbara Walters believes Boehner "has an emotional problem
If Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cried a fraction as much as incoming Speaker Boehner, it's safe to say that she would have been subject to endless attacks about her professional competence and personal stability a la
former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder in the 1980s.
It might be 2010, but sexist double standards
are alive and well, especially in the world of politics. Pelosi clearly knows that, as she announced to the world that, for her, there is no crying
if something is just political.
Boehner, who has also been dubbed "the Dean Martin of politics,"
has made it clear on numerous occasions that he's not afraid that showing his emotional side will detract from his persona as a fearless, hard-charging conservative leader. But in recent weeks, the Boehner Water Works Company has belied his Don Draper-like coolness, leading some to ask if Boehner's continual weepiness will guarantee that he keeps the honorary title of chair of The Crying Caucus
There's nothing wrong with crying. The stress of the presidential campaign trail made Hillary Clinton tear up in 2008. I certainly do more than my fair share of crying at elementary school productions featuring my daughter, watching any chick flick with Meg Ryan, or listening to holiday songs this time of year. And we've been used to seeing elected officials show their sensitive sides at least since former President Bill Clinton felt our pain. But when a politician -- man or woman -- cries as much as Boehner does these days, it's fair to ask whether something else is up and should we be concerned about how that impacts leadership decisions.
Knowing the kind of political animal that Boehner is, I wouldn't put it past him to have become a master of using a few tears or sniffles to convince the American people that he's just a regular guy, trying to help out all those other regular guys in America. Just please don't let John Boehner see this list of music that makes men cry; i
f he adds these to his iPod play list, we'll never get him to stop.