Obama and Christie: It's all right to cry

After an exhausting week, the president and the New Jersey governor finally let their feelings show

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published November 6, 2012 4:25PM (EST)

          (Reuters/Larry Downing)
(Reuters/Larry Downing)

It's OK, guys. By now, we all feel like crying, too. As America finally begins to see the light at the end of the hellsuck of both Hurricane Sandy and a nauseating presidential campaign, two of the men who've been at the center of both – Barack Obama and Chris Christie – are finally finding it impossible to hold back the tears.

At his final campaign rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Monday, a wrung-out and obviously exhausted President Obama roused supporters for one last voter push. Speaking near the site of his 2008 caucus headquarters, an emotional Obama addressed a crowd of 20,000, his voice cracking as he told them "what one voice can do." And as he did, a fan on Twitter promptly sent out an image purporting to be of the commander-in-chief rendered tearful as he delivered his ultimate chant of "Fired up" to the crowd.

And in hurricane-ravaged New Jersey, die-hard Springsteen fan Gov. Chris Christie couldn't hold back his feelings after he got a hug from the famously liberal, Obama-supporting Boss. The Associated Press reports that Christie admitted Monday that after a squeeze from Bruce at Friday's benefit concert for the victims of Sandy, he went home and cried, "calling it a major highlight during a tough week." 

Obama and Christie aren't the first politicians to get verklempt, of course. But during a week of exhaustingly historic proportions, what's disappointing is the incredible lack of slack — even now — they're granted for displaying emotion. Commenters on Twitter Monday declared the president looked "weak and beaten" and asked, "Why is Obama crying … I don't think it's gonna get him any extra votes." Gawker, meanwhile, snarked that Christie getting a hug from Springsteen "sounds like a small, normal enough gesture. Not for Christie. He was so moved by the moment that he cried afterwards," and noted his "mostly one-sided high-profile fanboy crush." Har har!

It's a classic example of the same old, same old. Five years ago, when then-president Bush wept at a Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony, the Telegraph asked, "Do you think less of Mr. Bush for crying at the event? Would it have been more fitting for the president to have kept a stiff upper lip? Was it self-indulgent for him to weep, particularly given his role in the war?" And in 2008, Hillary Clinton caught all manner of hell when she became tearful in the midst of her presidential campaign, because to be a woman and to cry is to be too weak to lead, right?

We may still be a long way from the day when it's acceptable for anyone who is not a 4-year-old girl to let loose with the waterworks, but frankly, if any two sleep-deprived, overwhelmed men in America have earned the right to a three-hanky moment this week, it's Obama and Christie. And if you disagree or feel like ragging on the guys after all that's gone down lately, please, just go vote for a robot. Because it turns out that tears are just one more bit of common ground the otherwise opposed politicians have found in the past few days. And if Mike Bloomberg were to suddenly find himself with something in his eye today, could anybody blame him?

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth Williams