How Empathetic Should a President Be?

I read Rick Moran’s blog post here at the PJ Tatler asking “How does a President Show Empathy?” Moran expressed concern that a lefty on a blog called Romney “stern and business-like”:


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.


I guess my question is “how empathetic should a president be?” If a person is too empathetic, that can be a bad thing because it can freeze one’s ability to act, or to act in the most effective manner. Barbara Oakley’s book Pathological Altruism points out that excessive empathy even be destructive:

Pathologies of altruism and empathy not only underlie health issues, but also a disparate slew of humankind’s most troubled features, including genocide, suicide bombing, self-righteous political partisanship, and ineffective philanthropic and social programs that ultimately worsen the situations they are meant to aid.

Why is looking “stern and business-like” such a bad trait? What if Romney has those traits and uses them as President to improve the economy, help put people to work and become less dependent on government? I will take that any day over a falsely “empathetic” leader who uses his empathy either to manipulate people or entice them to become so dependent on a “benevolent” leader that they choose entitlements over self-sufficiency, stagnation over growth and involuntary servitude rather than freedom.  How is this empathetic?


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