Do you remember that wonderful scene from "A League of Their Own?" Manager Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, scolds player Evelyn Gardner, played by Betty Shram, until she bursts into tears. Dugan memorably shouts at her, "Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!"
At one time we thought that there also was no crying in presidential politics, especially in the New Hampshire primary. Back in February 1972, Senator Ed Muskie of Maine was the Democratic favorite, and leading the polls in the New Hamshire Democratic Primary. Then the Manchester Guardian, the leading newspaper in New Hampshire, owned by conservative publisher William Loeb, ran two articles about Muskie, one alleging that he had referred to French Canadians as "Canucks," and the other accusing Muskie's wife of telling off-color jokes and engaging in drunkeness. Muskie angrily responded to the newspaper's stories, at a rally held in front of the offices of the Manchester Guardian. Some claimed to have seen tears in the eyes of the emotionally charged Senator from Maine. (See the photo at the right.) Muskie was roundly ridiculed by hostile pundits for his show of emotion. Some questioned whether he had the emotional toughness to be President. When he lost the New Hampshire primary to George McGovern (much to the delight of President Richard Nixon's Commmittee to Re-Elect the President, which hoped to face McGovern rather than Muskie in the November 1972 election), many observers attributed his defeat to his teary-eyed display.
Flash forward to February 2008. One day after an emotional, teary-eyed response to a question to Senator Hillary Clinton about how she bears up under the stress of a presidential campaign, Senator Clinton defies the polls and shocks even her own campaign staff by beating favorite Senator Barack Obama. Why the different result? Mark Daniels in Newsweek speculates that Hillary's comeback may have been an unforeseen consequence of the reaction of trailing candidate Senator John Edwards to Hillary's tears; falling back on the conventional wisdom of 1972, Edwards suggested that Senator Clinton's crying indicated that she lacked the emotional toughness to be President of the United States. Daniels speculates that the Edward's remark caused Senator Clinton's core demographic support base, women over 60, to turn out to the polls in droves and vote Senator Clinton to victory.
Pundits and historians may long debate whether Senator Clinton's tears were sincere or pre-planned, rehearsed and calculated, with Hillary waiting for the opportune moment to show her human side to the electorate. Others will debate whether Senator Edwards blundered by walking into a trap baited with Hillary's tears, which then sprung not only on him but on Senator Obama as well. One thing is for certain, however: at least for Hillary Clinton, there is crying in presidential politics.