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DOES BUSH HERALD ARRIVAL OF SENSITIVE NEW POLITICIAN?

Get out your handkerchiefs. The sensitive new politician has arrived.

Sen. Tom Harkin, who is looking into a White House bid, cried in New Hampshire last week. President Bush did it Thursday in Atlanta. Who'll be next?"I love it," said Rep. Patricia Schroeder, who knows something about the subject. She cried at a 1987 news conference announcing she would not run for president and has yet to hear the end of it.

"Anytime I go to any city to talk, that's the first piece of film the TV stations pull out," said the Colorado Democrat. "They've just decided that's the only thing I've ever done that counted."

Bush was telling the Southern Baptist Convention how he had prayed and cried before sending Americans to war against Iraq, and he became tearful at the memory.

"Like a lot of people, I've worried a little bit about shedding tears in public, or the emotion of it," the president said. Then, as his eyes welled up, he added, "There we go."

Bush told reporters later that he wasn't embarrassed by his tears.

"No, I do that in church," he said.

"I was trying to speak to them from the heart. I'll never forget that day. I knew what was over the horizon in terms of our air war, and I stood there with the tears coming down my face, and that's the way it was. So why not say it?"

For Harkin, an Iowa Democrat testing the waters in the state that holds the first presidential primary, the moment came in Concord, N.H., during a meeting with about 30 disabled people.

He was reading aloud a letter handed to him by a mentally retarded woman. She said she had been in a state school for 23 years and could not get the education she wanted. Congress, she wrote, is too concerned with young disabled people and ignores those over 21, like herself.

Harkin, a disability rights activist who has a deaf brother and knows sign language, stopped abruptly after a few paragraphs. He took off his glasses, pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes. "I apologize," he told his listeners. "This brings back a lot of memories."

His tears may have done the same for some New Hampshire residents. It was in their state, nearly 20 years ago, that Democratic presidential hopeful Ed Muskie appeared to weep slightly after a newspaper printed innuendos about his wife. Maybe that dampness on his face was tears; maybe it was snowflakes. In any case, his campaign never recovered.

President Reagan was a master of the art, to the point where his voice would break at exactly the same part of a story no matter how many times he told it. But Schroeder, for one, doesn't put Reagan's tears in the same category as the latest developments.

"I think people always dismissed that because he was an actor."