The PJ Tatler

How Does a President Show 'Empathy'?

There’s no doubt the left will jump on any little thing that Romney does and try to portray it as indicative of some serious character flaw in the candidate. Case in point: Romney visited a flooded-out town today in Louisiana.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched the final leg of his quest for the White House by visiting storm-battered Louisiana on Friday. He drove through a town that was flooded by Hurricane Isaac in part because it’s still outside the vast flooding protection system built with federal funds after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Romney and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spent close to an hour meeting with first responders and local officials. Romney shook hands with National Guardsmen outside the U.S. Post Office and talked with a local resident, Jodie Chiarello, 42, who lost her home in Isaac’s flooding.

“He just told me to, um, there’s assistance out there,” Chiarello said of her conversation with Romney. “He said, go home and call 211.” That’s a public service number offered in many states.

Chiarello said she will likely seek some other shelter because her home was submerged in the flooding. She expressed frustration about the town’s lack of flood protection.

“We live outside the levee protection that’s why we get all this water because they close the floodgates up front and all they’re doing is flooding us out down here,” she said. “It’s very frustrating, very. We go through Katrina and Rita and now we’re going through Cindy, Lee and now Isaac.”

Some lefty who dubs himself karoli at Crooks and Liars had this to say about Romney’s advice to the flooded-out woman:

I don’t know. When one loses their home in a storm and the GOP nominee for president comes to town with his entourage ostensibly to offer sympathy and rhetoric, I’d think they should maybe do that. If the idea is to look presidential, then Mitt Romney gave us a glimpse into the rather stern and businesslike president he would be.

Mitt paid a visit to hurricane-ravaged New Orleans Friday for the photo op and empathy moments. Only, it seems he kind of forgot the empathy moments.

Note that there is no description of Romney being “stern and businesslike.” Karoli pulled that out of a hat. In fact, the conversation comes to us second hand. The woman makes no mention of what else Romney may have said to her, much less his tone or demeanor. As far as “empathy” is concerned, Romney gave the woman the best help he could offer — call a number set up to help people in the disaster. How this translates into a lack of empathy — especially when the full extent of the conversation between the two is unknown — is a mystery.

Clinton was, indeed, a master at public empathizing. His performance at the memorial for those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing was pitch perfect and touchingly real. George W. Bush, on the other hand, braved the wrath — and the gratitude — of the families of the fallen in private. Ronald Reagan’s embrace of one of the Challenger astronaut’s crying children at that memorial service was a heartbreaking moment.

These displays of public and private empathy are important to how we see our president. In private, Romney has shown himself to be a very kind, empathetic man whose charitable works are nearly beyond belief in their scope and impact. A man like that doesn’t automatically become “stern and businesslike” when in public. Romney may be stiff, but he’s not brain dead. I’m sure he showed suitable and appropriate empathy toward the woman, and his suggestion was no doubt heartfelt. He was trying to help — and he did.

The left’s “cold-hearted capitalist” meme won’t resonate if the “real” Mitt Romney is revealed. Fortunately, Romney will have several hundred million dollars to get that done, bypassing the media and taking his case directly to the voter.