Times Mostly Falls for Hillary's Tears

The news pages mostly fall for Hillary's emotional display, but Maureen Dowd detects "a whiff of Nixonian self-pity."

The Times greeted Hillary Clinton's surprise victory in New Hampshire over Barack Obama without a lot of skepticism about her "unusual display of emotion on Monday," when she teared up in response to a question from a supporter in New Hampshire. (Jodi Kantor showed some in an inside story.)

Here's how Patrick Healy and Michael Cooper describe Hillary's infamous tearing-up in the Times' lead story:

"Several New Hampshire women, some of them undecided until Tuesday, said that a galvanizing moment for them had been Mrs. Clinton's unusual display of emotion on Monday as she described the pressures of the race and her goals for the nation - a moment Mrs. Clinton herself acknowledged as a breakthrough."

As an aside, checkthis unsympathetic front-page headline about the Republican race, won by John McCain: "McCain's Victory Muddles G.O.P. Field as It Looks to Michigan." Why didn't Hillary's win "Muddle Democratic Field" the way McCain's evidently did to the GOP?

Reporter Michael Powell showed howHillary did it in "Retooled Campaign and Loyal Voters Add Up."

"Mrs. Clinton kept moving, trying to break through the invisible wall that sometimes seems to separate this private woman from her supporters. She began giving voters long hugs - startling some - and discussing carefully her feelings.

"When she grew teary-eyed, television played the moment as a faux pas. But in New Hampshire, some supporters say they saw those tears and softened. In the gym here, backers said they saw in her teary eyes a reason to embrace this sometimes formal candidate."

It took Maureen Dowd, of all people (who's quite fun to read when the Clintons are involved) for an alternative view in her Wednesday column, "Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?" Dowd gave us a peek into the newsroom and showed that even at an elitist bastion like the Times, the old clichés of old-fashioned journalistic cynicism often still hold.

"When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

"A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the 'humanized' Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. 'We are at war,' he said. 'Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?'

"Another reporter joked: 'That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand.' He added dryly: 'Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships.'

"Bill Clinton was known for biting his lip, but here was Hillary doing the Muskie. Certainly it was impressive that she could choke up and stay on message.

"She won her Senate seat after being embarrassed by a man. She pulled out New Hampshire and saved her presidential campaign after being embarrassed by another man. She was seen as so controlling when she ran for the Senate that she had to be seen as losing control, as she did during the Monica scandal, before she seemed soft enough to attract many New York voters.

"Getting brushed back by Barack Obama in Iowa, her emotional moment here in a cafe and her chagrin at a debate question suggesting she was not likable served the same purpose, making her more appealing, especially to women, particularly to women over 45.

"The Obama campaign calculated that they had the women's vote over the weekend but watched it slip away in the track of her tears.

"At the Portsmouth cafe on Monday, talking to a group of mostly women, she blinked back her misty dread of where Obama's 'false hope' will lead us - 'I just don't want to see us fall backwards,' she said tremulously - in time to smack her rival: 'But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not.'

"There was a poignancy about the moment, seeing Hillary crack with exhaustion from decades of yearning to be the principal rather than the plus-one. But there was a whiff of Nixonian self-pity about her choking up. What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing."