Monday, December 13, 2010

It's (Not) Crying Time Again

I don't have a problem with guys getting emotional at times. If the tears are genuine, they sometimes and in certain circumstances show a depth of passion and feeling that words don't adequately describe. There are other times when it doesn't matter what the tears mean to the crier because they hold an entirely different meaning to others who see them. When people want empathy, they'll indulge the tears; when they want leadership, they don't want tears, they want to see you pound the table instead.

Representative John Boehner, the Speaker of the House-in-waiting, is taking some heat over his most recent well-publicized bawling episode. The videos and pictures of Rep. Boehner are getting a lot of air time; they show this weekend's watering, aired on 60 Minutes, as more than a chin-quivering, moist-eyed moment of sensitivity. They show him in a complete teary breakdown.

I don't believe for a second that Mr. Boehner's tears are contrived so I don't fault his sincerity. What I fault is - well - his sincerity, or at least the way he reveals it. He's obviously touching on a stimulus when he lowers his guard and speaks from the heart, but his adversaries are taking chisels to those little emotional fissures. By now, he should see it coming; he should know better than to show so much of himself to people he knows are going to rip him apart for it. By the time the beating over this latest tearful event passes, I hope he realizes his emotions need to find a different conduit. Rather than speak from the heart, he's going to need to speak tactically and think and act from the heart. The cynics out there aren't going to care how much he cares. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to any of us is whether he got the job done or not.

I remember toward the end of the Jimmy Carter term there was a lot of sentiment out there that he wasn't much of a president, but he sure did care. Well, no one cared if he cared or not. He was elected in the first place because people thought he cared. There came a time when we needed to see the proof because the country was in trouble. We needed to see him lead and motivate a country that was losing its confidence. The American people finally got bored with Carter and made him a one-term president, turning instead to Ronald Reagan who was as passionate as they come, but tough as nails too.

So, if I was giving Mr. Boehner advice, I would suggest he recognize that everyone who will ever care if he cares already believes he does. All of the rest are going to need to see the hard evidence. As Mr. Carter's experiences teach, when you're in a position of responsibility, it doesn't matter how much you care if you don't produce results. It will soon be time for him to get tough, kill the water works, and get busy producing those results.