- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2008

It’s been dubbed the “Comeback Cry,” and like many things related to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, it has incited conspiracy theories, accusations and strong reactions from voters and the press.

The New York senator and former first lady teared up when a voter in Portsmouth, N.H., asked her about the rigors of the campaign trail Monday, the day before she pulled off a win in the state’s Democratic primary.

Her biggest supporters yesterday said it was a defining moment in the campaign.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat and a Clinton backer, said it demonstrated to voters she has “humanity and real warmth” and called it a way that Mrs. Clinton made an “emotional connection” with female voters.

“This was Hillary at her core,” she said. “She does have a steel spine; no one should ever doubt that this is one strong woman.”

Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said it was a moment that “showed her passion” and revealed “a side people haven’t seen.”

“That’s the Hillary Clinton I’ve known for 27 years,” he told supporters yesterday.

But others were skeptical, saying that during Mrs. Clinton’s many years in the public spotlight she has rarely shown a wet eye. Pundits speculated endlessly about the tears and their potential meaning — or political calculation — as the video played repeatedly the day before the primary.

Mrs. Clinton addressed the tearful moment herself yesterday in television interviews, saying “it could well have been” what helped her win in New Hampshire.

On Fox News, Mrs. Clinton said world leaders aren’t devoid of emotion and “they do have feelings.”

“And maybe it’s a little more challenging for a woman in this position because, obviously, we know what people will say, but maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public life,” she said.

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. of Illinois, a supporter of rival candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, called them “tears that melted the Granite State,” acknowledging that the moment “clearly moved voters.”

But he also was skeptical of their sincerity, calling her campaign style “clever” and saying “those tears also have to be analyzed,” because he did not see Mrs. Clinton cry for the victims of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina or troops killed in Iraq.

The woman who posed the question that evoked the emotional response said she thinks Mrs. Clinton’s actions were genuine, but told a New Hampshire radio station she voted for Mr. Obama.

The coverage of the tearful moment also inspired questions about women being emotionally capable of handling the pressures of the nation’s highest office.

“I believe that there could well come a time when there is such a serious threat to the United States that she breaks down like that,” strategist Dick Morris, a former adviser to Bill Clinton who now frequently makes anti-Clinton remarks, said on Fox News.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a fellow Democratic presidential candidate, drew wide criticism from feminist circles after telling ABC News a president should be tough.

The search terms “Clinton crying” already have created half a million hits on the Internet search site Google, and a YouTube posting of the clip has been viewed more than 428,000 times as of last night.

Among the nearly 4,000 comments were YouTubers calling her “phony,” “fake” and “stark raving mad.”

“I don’t believe it was genuine,” Weekly Standard editor and New York Times columnist Bill Kristol said on Fox News. “I think no Clinton cries without calculating first.”

Pundits also played psychologist as the moment was repeated throughout the day Tuesday.

“I think Hillary, you know, really got inside herself, and it reminded her of why she’s doing it. She’s been a passionate fighter for children all her life,” Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said on CNN.

Those who think Mrs. Clinton leveraged the moment cite her political comments right after her eyes welled up, which were directed at Mr. Obama without mentioning his name.

“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 thought that through enough,” she said, her voice still breaking.

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