01/11/2008 01:34 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Other Half of the Hillary Crying Story

Every pundit has missed half of the Hillary crying story. For five days I have watched, listened and read as every pundit this side of Simon Cowell has offered their analysis on Senator Clinton's "breakdown" this past Sunday in New Hampshire. Where's the rest of her?

Yes, she was exhausted, probably felt picked on, and as a result, revealed her softer, more human, more likable side.

But she also gave voice to an emotion not related to self that is felt, however buried, by many Americans. In the midst of her comments she said, "I see what's happening. We have to reverse it." There was a catch in her throat, her voice wavered and she spoke with an almost mournful quality. There, just for that briefest of moments, were the tears of sadness, regret and vulnerability that lie beneath the surface when we speak of the Bush years in a more dispassionate manner.

To have this shock of recognition supplied by a candidate running to succeed Bush was, ironically, it's own shock. And, quite a welcome one. Mostly, increasingly, "change" is on the agenda. But for all the desire we have for a better future -- in fact, precisely because we yearn for that future -- it is not advisable for us to turn the page on the past just yet. And while there is huge value in inspiring words that move us about possibilities and hope, there is also value in words that move us in recognizing damage.

This is especially necessary post-Bush, a man whose greatest accomplishment has been to conduct a presidency so horrific that one's natural response is to dissociate. It started with Florida in 2000 when the concept of stealing an election was so without precedent, so brazen, and confronting it so unlikely to offer closure, let alone success, that even those who were horrified quickly turned the page. From there the crimes went on. "Scandal fatigue," -- a grossly inadequate term -- set in.

Even when this president departs the White House for his faux ranch in Midland, the Constitution will still be gutted and the soldiers will still be dying. Along with hope, sadness will be a necessary part of what brings change. And the candidate who truly feels that sadness will be most likely to bring it.