Media Torn Over Whether To Cast Clinton As ‘Weak’ Or ‘Calculating’ For ‘Emotional’ Display

Today at a campaign event in New Hampshire, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-NY) “eyes welled up with tears” as she spoke about why she was running for president. “It’s not easy, and I couldn’t do it if I didn’t passionately believe it was the right thing to do,” she said.

In a piece entitled, “Can Clinton’s Emotions Get The Best Of Her?,” ABC News wrote, “Whether Clinton has appeared too emotional, too sensitive or too weak in her recent public appearances is still up for debate.”

Many in the media have been quick to compare Clinton’s emotions to former 1972 Democratic presidential candidate Ed Muskie, who was taunted as weak and unpresidential after he became emotional on the campaign trail. Fox News pundits Michelle Malkin and Bill Kristol, however, took a different tact, calling Clinton’s emotions a “calculated” moment.

Watch a compilation of the media’s coverage:



The media’s excoriation and mocking of Clinton contrast with their treatment of prominent conservative politicians who have cried in the past. Their tears, according to these pundits, are “genuine,” “poignant,” and “extraordinary”:

Mitt Romney:

Mitt Romney’s eyes filled with tears Monday as the Republican presidential contender recalled watching the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq return to the United States and imagined if it were one of his five sons. Adding a poignant twist to a story he often tells on the campaign, Romney recalled the scene at Boston’s Logan International Airport while he was Massachusetts governor. [AP, 12/17/07]

But the fact that he teared up, people said, “Whoa, we thought he was so wooden and robotic, and there he is actually tearing up.” So actually, I think it does have an impact. It’s a genuine moment. It seems genuine. [Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe, MSNBC, 12/17/07]

President Bush:

The pictures were just what the White House wanted: A teary-eyed President Bush presenting the Medal of Honor posthumously to a slain war hero in the East Room. [Washington Post, 1/12/07]

A tear rolled down Bush’s cheek during the event, an extraordinary display of emotion by the commander-in-chief. Bush has been known to tear up and reportedly once cried in a private meeting with war widows. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/12/07]

The president is tremendously sentimental. Forget about putting his parents anywhere near him. At his inauguration he purposely kept them out of his line of sight so he could stay as dry-eyed as possible. He has learned not to brush the tears away. [Newsweek, 4/02]

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Robert Gates almost broke down as he gave a speech at a Marine Corps dinner. … Mr Gates’s show of feeling suggests that he brings a more human side to the role of defence secretary. [BBC, 7/19/07]

What is less often visible is the toll this war takes on the people who run the operation. Tonight we have a rare glimpse of emotion from a man who normally carefully chooses his words, the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. … a rare public display of emotion from the civilian in charge of this war effort. [NBC News, 7/19/07]

George H.W. Bush

Wiping away tears as he recalled praying at Camp David before ordering the start of the Persian Gulf war, President Bush today offered a testimony of emotion, politics and faith to a cheering crowd of thousands of Southern Baptists. [New York Times, 7/7/91]

UPDATE: Matt Stoller at OpenLeft observes, “When Edwards almost gets choked up and talks about how personal XYZ person is on the trail, he’s just passionate. When Clinton does it, she suddenly becomes a hysterical weak woman.”

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