(October 3, 2007)
In Robert Draper's new book, Dead Certain: The
Presidency of George W. Bush, the president admits to crying
quite a bit -- mostly in private -- ever aware that the troops,
not to mention the enemies of America, are watching him.|
In the past I heard people, from those on television to some
friends, express their disappointment that President Bush
doesn't publicly cry, or show grave emotion, when talking about
even the saddest of situations. I never believed that to be the
case, but let's consider the accusation nonetheless.
Bush, like many of us, doesn't wear his
emotions on his sleeve, and I think that should be a requirement
for a job such as the presidency.|
Lack of outward emotion is often mistaken as heartlessness or a
lack of caring by people who TiVo Oprah daily and think that the
problem hasn't been invented that can't be solved by a 'jammy
party, group hug and weepy confession.
Whenever I hear that Bush isn't outwardly "consumed by grief and
sorrow" in awful situations, a question comes to mind: Is a
consistent public display of raw emotion something we really
want in our leaders?
Imagine you're on a commercial airline, and every time your
flight hits severe turbulence your pilot gets on the intercom
and screams like a woman who just saw a mouse in the kitchen.
Would it ease your nerves to know that the pilot is "just like
us" because he's sharing our emotions?
Some view a crying leader as a weak one, and some view a leader
who never cries in public as a cold one. I tend to view a weepy
politician much like the female orgasm-it's an emotional human
reaction that can also, by the right practitioners, be
I don't know about you, but I don't want a leader who cries at
the drop of a hat. Take some of the greats as examples. What if
General Patton had altered one of his famous quotes to satisfy
those demanding tears from their leaders? "An army is a team. It
eats, sleeps, fights and cries as a team."
How about Sir Winston Churchill? He's remembered as one of the
world's great leaders, and he wasn't known to bawl in public,
nor chastised for failing to do so, for that matter. And it
would have been easier for ol' Winston, since bawling comes
naturally when you're jacked on Johnnie Walker Black Label while
V1s explode nearby.
What if Churchill would have said, "We shall not fail or falter.
We shall not weaken or tire," then choked up and concluded with
a weepy, "Clemmie, hand me a Kleenex"?
What if President Truman's nickname was "Give 'em sobbing,
What if Martin Luther King Jr. had said, "I have a dream that my
four little children will one day live in a nation where they
will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by how much
they cry in public"?
What would have happened if Douglas MacArthur said "I shall
return, after a good bewailing"? A bunch of Filipinos would have
been suddenly a little more insecure, that's what.
What if Reagan had said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this
emotional wall between us"?
There have been leaders who cried, and with mixed results. Who?
Well, Bill Clinton got misty a lot and was still politically
successful. A TV camera does to Bill Clinton what chopping
onions does to the rest of us. Clinton can turn on an emotional
dime, vacillating between tears and laughter with such ease that
he must have trained himself to do so by simultaneously yanking
out nose hairs while watching Three Stooges movies.
Not all politicians, however, can pull off tears and survive.
Back in 1972, it was alleged that Maine Sen. Edmund Muskie wept
on the steps of the Union Leader newspaper in Manchester, N.H.,
while defending his wife, whom that paper editorialized as
"emotionally unstable." Word of Muskie's cry ruined his
presidential hopes, and, in many cases, put a quick end to the
practice of a politician defending his wife.
Crying is a natural and healthy human emotion, but a leader's
success shouldn't be judged by how much waterworks they produce
in public. Laughter through tears can be a good feeling, but
leadership through tears is darn near impossible.
By Doug Powers
Doug Powers is a columnist and author from
Michigan. He can be reached via his blog at
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