Emote Control

Apparently, Hillary Clinton isn’t the only one trying to persuade America she’s human . Jonathan Martin points out that just yesterday Mitt Romney “teared up for the third time in recent weeks.” First during his Mormonism speech, then Sunday on Meet the Press as he discussed his church’s history with race (clip here ; he actually looks pretty in control), and then Monday as he described seeing the casket of a soldier killed in Iraq and imagining that it was one of his sons.

Whether or not the sudden emotion is a conscious shift for Romney, it’s hard not to see these moments as deliberate. The man labeled “robot,” “automaton,” and, slightly more charitably, ” cyborg ” (at least that’s half human) is slipping in the Iowa polls against a flesh-and-blood opponent, Mike Huckabee. Strong social conservatism and his religious background partly explain Huckabee’s rise—his friendly manner and emotional appeal explain the rest of it. If there was ever a time for Romney to emote, it’s now.

Time was, crying on the campaign trail amounted to suicide. Democratic candidate Ed Muskie famously wept outside the offices of the New Hampshire Union Leader in 1972—although he said he was just wiping the melted snowflakes from his cheeks. But Bill Clinton made the presidency safe for softies with his perpetually moistened eyes. You might say that showing emotion is now a prerequisite for any candidate. (Maybe that’s why John Edwards is always blinking.) And the phenomenon extends across the aisle—”Bush men always cry,” Jeb Bush once said, explaining his family’s regular public weeping.

It’s just amusing to read reports that Hillary Clinton became ” visibly emotional ” at a campaign event, only to learn that the event was “designed to showcase a softer side of the New York senator .” Go go gadget, tears !