In his 1988 debate (video) with the-Vice President Bush, Governor Michael S. Dukakis cemented his “iceman” reputation with his answer to Bernard Shaw’s question: “If Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Some in the audience gasped, but Dukakis answered in monotone: “No, I don’t, Bernard, think that the death penalty for the killer should be the case and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life.” He gave a pure, policy wonk answer, and he was ripped to shreds over it. It’s a delicate balance.
Fournier: “Even 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 and may even help breathe life into candidates in need of a human touch.” Whether some candidates are staging it or not, the fact is this piece does have a point. Back when Muskie’s wife was being savaged and attacked by the press, he started crying. His party was so ashamed that they tried to claim that he had melted snowflakes on his face, not tears!
The press is clearly fascinated by emotions, writing that they “rule the political world.” This is part of the Clinton legacy from his 1992 “I feel your pain” campaign. Feelings are not bad things; it’s how you share who you are with people. However, there’s a difference in sharing your feelings with those in your immediate orb to establish intimacy with them or what have you and making political decisions based on how you feel. For example, people are caused pain by watching the images of war – forgetting that we can either have images of dead enemy fighters on the streets of Kabul or images of dead innocent Americans on the streets of Manhattan. Emotions have their place, in balance with the intellect.