American Consequences - February 2019

Bush was a deeply sympathetic man. He cared about other people’s feelings. And he was no dummy. He understood why people felt the way they felt. On the other hand, Bush never seemed to have the imagination or temperament to practice empathy – to project himself into other people’s lives. In fact, George might have thought that would be rude, too intrusive, too inappropriately personal. Meanwhile, Clinton was the most inappropriately personal man on earth. He had no problem projecting himself into other people’s... underwear. Not to mention lives. Clinton was Mr. Empathy. “I feel your pain.” And when he said that he probably – in his over-imaginative theatrical brain full of

Personally, as emotions go, I prefer sympathy to empathy. Trying to understand people’s feelings is steadier, more sensible, and less self- dramatizing.... And we see the other as having nothing but the most sympathetic possible feelings – for himself. Just an old, conceited, rich, crony capitalist from whom nobody ever wants to hear anything again. And we don’t empathize with him at all. shallow adolescent sensitivity – meant it. For a moment. Until it was somebody else’s turn for Bill to feel their... whatever. But did Bill have any real sympathy for other people? We’ll have to ask Hillary. You first. Bush’s calm, reasonable, and self-controlled attitude toward the mild recession at the end of his administration was interpreted as cold- hearted. His apparent lack of empathy cost him his re-election. Clinton’s ability to act the part of Empathizer- in-Chief won him the White House. Yet, in retrospect, we see one of them as a kind, decent man who loved America and Americans and who did his best for his fellow citizens. And we sympathize.

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February 2019

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