In the 1972 New Hampshire primary, the late Edmund Muskie choked back anger and was reportedly on the verge of tears because of articles—one of which proved to be a hoax—that appeared in the Manchester Union Leader attacking him and his wife.
During a campaign stop, Muskie challenged the Union Leader’s editor William Loeb, “By attacking me, by attacking my wife, he has proved himself to be a gutless coward. And maybe I said all I should on it. It's fortunate for him he's not on this platform beside me. A good woman . . .[chokes up]”
This emotional moment came to be regarded as the collapse of his presidential campaign because, instead of being seen as a strength—defending his wife from slander, it was viewed as a weakness. But then, Muskie was male and this was still only 1972. Men were not yet allowed to get in touch with their fabled “feminine side.”
On December 20, 2007, the Boston Globe reported Mitt Romney’s brief contact with his “feminine side” when his eyes welled up after repeating, for the umpteenth time on the campaign trail, the story about watching the casket of an American soldier killed in Iraq while wondering to himself "what it would be like to lose a son in a situation like that." Mitt, fortunately, will never know. His sons are safely by his side. But he is nonetheless proud of their “service” on the campaign trail, which he said is a lot like military service.
Now the “cold and calculating” Vietnam War-protester-turned-hawk Hillary Clinton has reconnected with her “feminine side” in time to pull off a surprise victory in New Hampshire, which has reinvigorated her campaign. Over coffee at the Espresso Café in Portsmouth, Hillary gave the mostly female group of undecided voters a full 10-second clip of her underbelly.
When asked, "How do you keep upbeat and so wonderful?" Hillary began by talking about her hair and then, either by epiphany or serendipity, or cold, calculating political strategy, she eased onto her “feminine side,” “This is very personal for me. It’s not just political . . . It’s about our country. It’s about our kids’ futures. It’s really about all of us together.”
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Then just as easily—almost seamlessly—she rolled back onto her “male side” and went for Barack Obama’s jugular, “But some of us are right and some of us are wrong, some of us are ready and some of us are not, some of us know what we will do on day one and some of us haven’t really though that through enough.”
Keep in mind, Hillary is the same politician who has supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq for the last five years, a decision that has cost 3,921American mothers and fathers their kid’s precious future, and an untold number of Iraqi parents the same loss.
Keep in mind also, she is the same politician who put the Bill of Rights and “all of us together” in clear and present danger by voting for the Patriot Act in 2001 and its reauthorization in 2006.
This is the same politician who wants us to believe that “this is very personal.” With her daughter Chelsea safely by her side and out of harm’s way in New Hampshire, it is not nearly as personal as it could be.
Hillary Clinton spent eight years in the White House as her husband’s consigliere and the last seven years as a senator. She is a consummate politician who lives and dies by her ability to control the moment. Any one doubting this will do well to imagine the control it took for her to hold Bill’s hand while he begged the nation’s forgiveness for his Oval Office tryst with Monica.
No one can say for certain—other than Hillary and her handlers—that her 10-second “feminine side” moment in the Espresso Café in Portsmouth was not genuine. One can say with a high degree of certainty, however, that it was 100 percent political.
But the important question for the American electorate and, more critically, for the wellbeing of our democratic republic is, should a politician’s future depend on a 10-second moment of emotion—cynically contrived or otherwise. Edmund Muskie lost a presidential bid because of such a moment. Hillary Clinton may have won the White House again for the same reason.
With so much damage to our nation and its international reputation to repair after eight years of the callous misadventures of George W. Bush, we do need politicians who can think with their head and feel with their heart. But we can ill afford to continue electing—or not—a politician on the basis of one brief moment of the later.
Sorry Hillary, I’m not buying it . . . you either, Mitt!