Published on January 8, 2008.
Why did Hillary cry during an ABC interview yesterday?
Some say it was phony, contrived to make her appear more human and empathetic. Wrong. She must have known the political consequences, particularly for a female candidate, of tears. Ed Muskie watered his political grave in New Hampshire in 1972 by crying in public over the false accusation that he had used a derogatory ethnic term to describe French Canadians. Nixon’s dirty tricks people had planted the phony story. But the tears ended Muskie’s candidacy.
Others say that the tears reflected genuine emotion and sorrow for the diminished future prospects of America now that it would not have Hillary Clinton to lead it into the future. Wrong again. Even she is not that arrogant.
The real reason was that her frustration at not being able to control events boiled over and metastasized into tears.
I know because I saw it once before in 1994 after the Democrats lost Congress due, in large part, to her failed health care reform initiative. A few days after the election, she sobbed to me over the phone that she was “bewildered” and that “nothing I do seems to work out.” She confessed to being “totally at a loss”and not to grasp why “nothing is working.”
Hillary is a control freak whose most admirable quality (yes, there are some) is her amazing self-discipline. She wears the right clothing, exercises properly, eats sensibly, stays on script when she answers questions, memorizes the briefing papers, follows the strategy, hits all the right talking points, gets her makeup and hair just right. So why is she losing? The essential equation for her is that if she disciplines herself sufficiently and prepared arduously, she will prevail.
But when she doesn’t, she is at sea. She becomes frustrated by her loss of control and doesn’t know where to turn. She has great faith in gurus and chooses them carefully. But once she invests her faith in one of them, she follows their lead to the end of the earth. But if she doesn’t achieve her objective, if the guru’s instructions prove flawed, she is at a loss as to what to do and she becomes very emotional.
A person who never bends, she sometimes breaks.
Contrast her reaction to adversity with Bill’s. The former president becomes furious. He rants and raves to all who will listen about the injustices being done to him (or to Hillary) and demands redress. He refuses to concede the merit in his attackers but, red in the face, screams in rage at his adversity.
For us the question is which we would rather have as president, an angry, determined, energized chief executive or one who is lost, awash in self-pity and confused by failure? The answer is obvious. Hillary lacks the temperament to be president.
What is the political consequence of her lapse on ABC? Probably huge. Americans are warmed when a politician is moved to tears by the plight of someone else. But they get turned off when it is their own plight that the public figure bewails. Pity for others is positive. Self-pity unforgiveable in our politics. We want a president who will not go to pieces when the missiles start flying.
And, on Monday, in the snows of New Hampshire, Hillary Rodham Clinton failed the test.