You may have missed Hillary Clinton’s flash of emotion yesterday, so brief was it. But you certainly can’t miss the clip of it, which has been on a continuous loop on all the cable channels for nearly twenty-four hours now.
So, what says the insta-analysis? How, according to the cable pundits, might voters feel about Clinton’s display of feeling (as it is displayed and dissected over and over on their television screens)? What affect will it have on the race?
To some, it was a much-needed (and probably too-little-too-late) humanizing moment, a welcome development for a “robo-candidate” such as Hillary Clinton (Gloria Borger on CNN), something that, according to The Chicago Tribune’s Jill Zuckerman on MSNBC, might help voters “view her as human” rather than as “this, you know, cardboard cutout figure who was in the White House for eight years…”
Others speculated that it might have been a little too human for “some.”
Fox News’ Major Garrett’s took a sort of there’s no crying in politics (but of course I’m just reporting, YOU decide) stance. After observing that for “some” it “could be problematic” that Clinton began to “emotionally well up,” Garrett elaborated:
For Hillary Clinton to convey that heavy emotionalism when she is also trying to make the campaign promise that she, uniquely in the Democratic field, is ready to lead on day one come what may— this may be a little bit problematic… to see Hillary Clinton begin to have that loss of composure right before the New Hampshire primary, some might ask, well listen, losing a campaign that’s one thing but what if you’re president? I mean you’re going to have harder jobs to deal with than that.
Garrett’s in-studio colleague, E.D. Hill, wondered did Garrett “ever sense there is a bit of a double standard there?” — quickly adding, “I am not saying this from a female perspective, you know, everyone’s against us, but still. I have seen other presidents, male presidents, well up. I have seen tears roll down their face and they don’t seem to take the heat…” Have things, Hill wondered, “really changed” for women?
Garrett pronounced the Clinton campaign a “grand experiment” in whether or not “things have really changed” for women. But, Garrett continued, “everyone will evaluate this on their own, though their own prism” (pay no attention to Fox’s on-screen headline: “Pressure Begins to Get to Clinton in New Hampshire”). For example, Garrett reported, “the women” at the Clinton event — “including our embedded producer” — “reacted favorably to it,” a reaction that Garrett allowed is “just as valid as someone saying, well, I don’t find that comforting…”
E.D. Hill posed the question to Fox News viewers: “Do you think it was okay to show emotion? Do you think people are going to go, ‘Eh, girl!” or what?”
USA Today’s Susan Page had this take on MSNBC: “Politics isn’t fair. It’s not fair in that women candidates, especially for president, better not show weakness or uncertainty. I think this has the potential to be a problem for her even though it does show a human side.”
Also debated at length on cable was whether Clinton’s emotional moment - helpful or harmful aside - was actually authentic. Was it spontaneous or strategic? Or, as MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson put it to one of his guests: “Is that in your estimation a scripted moment? Is that a genuine moment? Is it an appealing moment? Is it repugnant?” On Fox News, Major Garrett again spoke for the nameless “some,” observing: “There’ll be some who say that this has the feel of calculation.” But again, of course, “Everyone who could look at that video will come to their own conclusion…”
Also on Fox News came this exchange between Neil Cavuto and colleague Monica Crowley:
Crowley: Forget Britney Spears. Hillary Clinton will need a visit from Dr. Phil.
Cavuto: Do you believe it was genuine?
Crowley: I think she is absolutely exhausted as the other candidates are and she is in a panic mode and it is showing on her emotionally….
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly last night put his “body language expert” Tonya Reiman on the case:
Reiman, narrating as the Clinton clip rolled: As you see, as soon as she starts to get emotional, she brings her hands to her face. She does do all the telltale signs of someone getting emotional. Her eyebrows are high and almost like you keep your eyes that big so a tear doesn’t roll down her face and she does put her hand into a fist which tells me she is angry about what she feels about the country and look at the handgrip.
O’Reilly: Yeah. I don’t think she faked that.
So that, pretty much, should settle that, right?
Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.