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November 9, 2012

Why Is This Man Crying?

Do you understand why we’re seeing these pictures, all of a sudden, of Obama crying? The emotion was noted widely after his last campaign rally in Iowa, and again yesterday addressing his staff in Chicago.It’s because he’s come face-to-face these last few days with the fact his political career is in its last hurrah. And what an irony it is that – like a professional athlete who puts everything into his craft and then is washed up at a still-young age – Obama is only just starting to find his game.

The lesson in this, and it’s a lesson for all of us, is that our culture has been far too eager to glorify and elevate youth and talent at the expense of nurturing it along. From the start, my greatest regret about Obama has been how we deprived him of the two or three more terms in the Senate to equipped him with the experience to match that raw talent, and really prime him for the job.

If you watch the video of Obama becoming emotional with his volunteers, he chokes up talking about their youth and potential in contrast to his culmination. I believe these are the words that precede the tears:

“Wherever you guys end up, in whatever states, in whatever capacities, whether you’re in the private sector or the not-for-profit, or some of you decide to go into the public service… you’re just going to do great things! And that’s why, even before last night’s results, I felt that the work that I had done in running for office had come full circle…”

Similarly, in Iowa, returning to “where it began,” the tears came out over “his self-proclaimed ‘last campaign’” and “finish(ing) what we started.”

What could be more bittersweet — at the conclusion of this grueling and very accomplished march — than to stand at the pinnacle and realize that you’re that close to done?

(photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

  • kidzmom1

    I think the tears in front of the staff is genuine affection and appreciation for what they have done together. I have had opportunity to lead a group of people in a singular task and at the end was as overcome by their dedication and devotion to the goal as Obama was by his peeps. It is truly a humbling experience to be a part of something BIG that works without thought to self but only to what needs doing. You hold the title of President, or Director, but you KNOW deep in yourself that what you do/did is of little significance without the surrounding efforts of people just as dedicated. You KNOW you are not an island or a Lone Ranger – you are part of Something.

  • bystander

    From the start, my greatest regret about Obama has been how we deprived
    him of the two or three more terms in the Senate to equipped him with
    the experience to match that raw talent, and really prime him for the

    is an *incredibly* important observation. But what do we/Democrats/liberals/progressives/Obama supporters do with it? How do we make it useful? It’s not like you, or me, or anyone else plebeian has much input into who the primary candidates are. I imagine you’d acknowledge that our choices as voters are deeply constrained in some profound ways.

    And, I am left to infer that somehow things might have been different, or better, had Obama had that opportunity for nurture. What might those have been?

    And, finally, the thing that irks the most – Is now *really* the time to be nostalgic? So, Obama had to “raise himself,” politically. Okay. But, he’s got 4 more years, right? Has he grown into this job yet? Can we expect that he has? And, if so, might we see (or, expect) some of those differences that might have emerged had he been nurtured and better(?) prepared for this role?

    For me, the time for the kinds of tears you suggest would have been when he left the office for the last time. Which leaves me wondering what is really in his head as he sheds them. What do those tears mean – in addition to – “I’m that close to done.” What else is behind them?

  • Bailey Wier

    I think you’re right, Michael, there was some wistfulness in there. But, I think it’s also about sheer exhaustion… He’s shouldered an incredible weight of high hopes and deep fears for so many. It was a moment of vulnerability where all that weight was lifted for a moment, and he could see that — despite how it felt — he hadn’t truly been alone after all. Touching.

  • janis edwards

    we deprived him of seasoning in the Senate? We? I voted for Hillary, for that reason. He could go back to the Senate.

  • mmcpher

    The way I saw it, the specific emotional trigger was the reference to RFK, just before the above-quoted passage. RFK is a figure effused with emotional resonance for any Democratic partisan, for obvious reasons, and it would almost have to be felt on an even deeper level for this President. I had a number of heated exchanges during this election season, not with Conservative friends who opposed the President and all he stood for in their eyes, but with friends who were also Democrats, many of whom counted themselves among those who were disappointed and betrayed by Obama’s failure to fulfill their projections for him. Happened all the time during the first term, liberals worked themselves into a lather and started suggesting he was weak, gutless, brainless. . . . And I kept thinking, I don’t know, this guy sure seems like an historical figure to me. The sheer impossibility of his rise didn’t retroactively evaporate the moment he had surmounted it. I have always had this wider sense of his historical significance. I am confident that this will be the long view of his time as POTUS. For this reason, this wider meaning to his Presidency because of who he is and who we were as a Country for too long a time, there was added weight to his journey to be reelected, so some of his emotional venting may be attributable to exhaustion.
    So he may have been rendered momentarily more vulnerable in the last few days, less able to so closely guard and control his feelings, and we saw some glimpse. The run for the Presidency is such a public spectacle in this age of multiple, 24/7 news channels and ceaseless coverage and adds and pollings, that we miss the other aspect of it, that for each man or women caught in the glare, it is still a personal journey.

  • Gasho

    Janis – Great point.. what if he was humble enough to go BACK to the senate?? Has that ever been done?

    • irishdave3

      John Adams went back to the House, if memory serves…

  • Michael Shaw

    As many of you have noted, there are four years ahead and there are also many reasons for emotion at the end of this grueling exercise. I probably could have made more of the fact it’s a moment in time. Emotions and events are that transitory, aren’t they? In fact, I was looking back through the archive the other day at the focus of the posts a few days, then a week, then two weeks after Obama’s historic victory in ‘08. What was really fascinating to note was how fast the drama/aura of the election dissipated and we were head down in the myopia of the everyday.

    • robert e

      I think that both your post and this comment are surprising and profound. I wonder whether his political career is really over in four years, though, at least unofficially. Barack Obama’s post presidency could be much more than Bill Clinton’s. He has the potential to be a heck of an elder statesman, mentor, role model, ambassador, teacher and gadfly. If he can get over his humility.

  • caraf

    What is remarkable about this post, the comments, and media coverage of this moment in general is that nobody is criticizing Obama for crying in public. Calling Edmund Muskie, anyone? Or Hillary 08? Have we finally crossed the rubicon on the crying-isn’t-presidential thing? Would be nice.

  • Thiet ke logo

    I agree with the comments you have made

  • BooksAlive

    Yes, He was Sec of State during the 4 years immediately before his Presidency, 1825-1829. Then he served in the House for 17 years, representing three successive districts in Massachusetts. He died while in office, Feb. 23, 1848.

  • David

    It was John Quincy Adams who went back to the House after his presidency (interestingly, he was a member of the MA Senate and US Senate prior to being President). Two days before his death he collapsed while speaking on the House floor, from the cerebral hemorrhage that killed him.

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