your connection to The Boston Globe

On trail, emotions are no longer taboo

WASHINGTON -- Three decades after misty eyes doomed Edmund Muskie's presidential campaign and revelations of shock treatment forced Thomas Eagleton out as vice presidential nominee, Howard Dean has spoken about grief counseling and bouts of anxiety over his brother's disappearance in Southeast Asia.

Wesley K. Clark has gotten emotional over genocide. John F. Kerry has been seen watery-eyed in a New Hampshire diner. John Edwards has called the death of his son "the undercurrent of my life." And President Bush, the tough-on-terrorism commander in chief, has fought back tears in the Oval Office.

In this age of heart-on-your-sleeve politics, signs of emotion are no longer the kiss of political death; they may even help breathe life into candidates.

"It's become another element, another way, of making the public feel they know something they really don't know about a candidate," said Stanley Renshon, political scientist and psychoanalyst at the City University of New York.

Dean has offered scant details about grief counseling he sought in the early 1980s for guilt and anger he suffered after his brother, Charles Dean, disappeared in Laos 30 years ago.

Eagleton's mental history was more severe, and it forced him from George McGovern's 1972 ticket.

"It strikes me that people are more accepting," said Michael Dimock, a pollster with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "The bulk of the population is now baby boomers and have experienced many of these same feelings."

Clark, a retired general, grew misty-eyed for CBS's "60 Minutes II" while looking at pictures of children killed in ethnic cleansing. Kerry choked up in September as he talked to an unemployed New Hampshire woman. Edwards broke a public silence about his son's death in a new book. And Bush's eyes watered during his inauguration -- and while he spoke of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives