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Crying Game - Peter Funt

Honestly, what's with all the crying on Capitol Hill? Judging by the flow of tears, you'd think Republicans had recently suffered some kind of horrible defeat.

Thanks to YouTube, just about everyone has seen how John Boehner, incoming House Speaker, cried uncontrollably on "60 Minutes" when grilled by Lesley Stahl. As I recall, Boehner burst into tears when Stahl asked something like, "Can we start taping now?"

But a smaller audience caught the scene on the Senate floor just a few days ago, when Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, cried over the retirement of veteran lawmaker, Judd Gregg, of New Hampshire. This was not the first time. Earlier this year, McConnell sobbed during a Senate speech about the departure of his longtime chief of staff. And now, about Gregg, McConnell kept sniffling and wiping tears from his cheek as he spoke of his colleague's service.

Funny thing, none of the other senators were moved to tears as they honored Gregg. In fact, Gregg, himself, was quite composed in delivering his final goodbyes, so what's with the GOP leadership?

Nancy Pelosi, who will yield her position to Boehner next month, has revealed that Boehner cries with some regularity in private meetings when discussing legislation. Really? It's one thing to cry under the pressure of national TV, when Lesley Stahl asks, if memory serves, "Is that a new tie?" But sobbing in closed session at the Capitol? Gosh.

Of course, Glenn Beck, the Iron Man of Fox News Channel, cries all the time on TV -- It's a recurring bit. But until the two top Republicans in Congress showed their weepy sides, it didn't seem like a trademark among conservative males.

The whole thing is in rather stark contrast to the behavior of the GOP's most powerful woman, Sarah Palin, who goes on TV clubbing halibut and blasting caribou, while John Boehner cries uncontrollably when Lesley Stahl asks, "Can I bum a cigarette?"

Presumably, each time Palin goes on the rampage about how politicians need to "man up," she's referring to the leadership of her own party.

Crying among politicians isn't unheard of, nor is it strictly a Republican thing. Barack Obama shed tears in public when his grandma, who raised him, died on the eve of his election as president. George W. Bush sobbed on TV as he recounted his feelings for the victims of 9/11. Historians note that over a century ago, Lincoln and Douglas cried publicly on occasion during their famous presidential campaign.

But Boehner, and now McConnell, seem to be taking crying to a whole new level. Worse, Boehner's face gets all twisted up and distorted. It was so weird that Lesley Stahl had to laugh at one point, and then a while later tried to comfort Boehner by holding his hand.

"This guy has an emotional problem," said Barbara Walters, who's somewhat of an expert on public waterworks, having made a sport of trying to get guests to sob on her shoulder during prime-time interviews. Walters' pals on "The View" dubbed Boehner "Weeper of the House."

Not all observers are critical of Boehner's softer side. Even the progressive MSNBC host Rachel Maddow defended his unchecked emotional displays, although she made quite a point of noting that it would be better if Boehner became as choked up over issues like unemployment, hunger and poverty, rather than soft-ball questions from Lesley Stahl.

As I recall, Boehner burst into tears when Stahl asked, "Can you imagine what the writers at 'Saturday Night Live' are thinking right now?"

This column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He's also the long-time host of "Candid Camera." He may be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.