But a smaller audience
caught the scene on the Senate floor just a few days ago when Mitch McConnell,
the Republican leader, cried over the retirement of veteran lawmaker Judd Gregg
of New Hampshire. This was not the first time. Earlier this year, McConnell sobbed
during a Senate speech about the departure of his longtime chief of staff. And
now, about Gregg, McConnell kept sniffling and wiping tears from his cheek as
he spoke of his colleague’s service.
Funny thing, none of the other senators was moved to tears in honoring Gregg.
In fact, Gregg himself was quite composed in delivering his final goodbyes, so
what’s with the GOP leadership?
Nancy Pelosi, who will yield her position to Boehner next month, has revealed
that Boehner cries with some regularity in private meetings when discussing legislation.
Really? It’s one thing to cry under the pressure of national TV when Lesley
Stahl asks, if memory serves, “Is that a new tie?” But sobbing in
closed session at the Capitol? Gosh.
Of course Glenn Beck, the Iron Man of Fox News Channel, cries all the time
on TV - it’s a recurring bit. But until the two top Republicans in Congress
showed their weepy sides, it didn’t seem like a trademark among conservative
The whole thing is in rather stark contrast to the behavior of the GOP’s
most powerful woman, Sarah Palin, who goes on TV clubbing halibut and blasting
caribou, while John Boehner cries uncontrollably when Lesley Stahl asks, “Can
I bum a cigarette?”
Presumably each time Palin goes on the rampage about how politicians need
to “man up,” she’s referring to the leadership of her own party.
Crying among politicians isn’t unheard of, nor is it strictly a Republican
thing. Barack Obama shed tears in public when his grandma, who raised him, died
on the eve of his election as president. George W. Bush sobbed on TV as he recounted
his feelings for the victims of 9/11. Historians note that over a century ago,
Lincoln and Douglas cried publicly on occasion during their famous presidential
But Boehner, and now McConnell, seem to be taking crying to a whole new level.
Worse, Boehner’s face gets all twisted up and distorted. It was so weird
that Lesley Stahl had to laugh at one point, and then a while later tried to
comfort Boehner by holding his hand.
“This guy has an emotional problem,” said Barbara Walters, who’s
somewhat of an expert on public waterworks, having made a sport of trying to
get guests to sob on her shoulder during prime-time interviews. Walters’ pals
on “The View” dubbed Boehner “Weeper of the House.”
Not all observers are critical of Boehner’s softer side. Even the progressive
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow defended his unchecked emotional displays, although
she made quite a point of noting that it would be better if Boehner became as
choked up over issues like unemployment, hunger and poverty, rather than soft-ball
questions from Lesley Stahl.
As I recall, Boehner burst into tears when Stahl asked, “Can you imagine
what the writers at ‘Saturday Night Live’ are thinking right now?”
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.