Jun 01

The empathy gene


June 1
I
happened to catch The Bill Maher Show the other night and overheard a
discussion about President Obama's handling of the Gulf disaster. Regardless of
one's perception of how well or poorly Obama has done, Maher said, he lacks
'the empathy gene.'

I
found the observation particularly astute. Obama does lack the empathy gene and
reminds me of what I've read about President Woodrow Wilson. I've just
completed a book entitled, 'George, Nicholas and Wilhelm' by Miranda Carter. It
details the three royal cousins and grandsons of Queen Victoria whose
dysfunctional relationships and management helped precipitate World War I.
According to Ms. Carter, there were very few things all three monarchs agreed upon.
One, though, was Wilson, whom Wilhelm described as an 'unmitigated, academic
bore.'

Indeed,
Wilson's highly-documented intellectual snobbery and near-total lack of
compassion contributed to his failure to convince Congress to agree to join the
League of Nations (the U.N.'s predecessor). That, in turn, set in motion the
chain of events that eventually led to World War II.

Obama
is a modern-day Wilson. He has shown a complete lack of empathy towards the
Gulf disaster and its inhabitants. Sure, he's held press conferences and made a
visit or two. But, where's the tearing eyes of a Ronald Reagan or the
hysterical sobbing of a William Jefferson Clinton? The country in general, and
the Gulf Shore in particular, desperately need to see some empathy from 44.

The
missing empathy gene got me thinking about how the various presidents in my
lifetime might have demonstrated empathy in the midst of the Gulf calamity.

Here's
what I came up with. See if you agree:


Obama: Cool, calm and collected to a fault. Zero empathy.


W: He'd be curled up in front of the tube watching a Texas Rangers game,
totally oblivious to the disaster. When finally informed, he'd defer to Cheney,
who'd laud BP for its rapid response.


Clinton: His tears would rival the number of gallons of oil spilled to date.
The man would be beside himself (and probably cozying up to a comely Alabama
intern to help him deal with his own, inner demons).


41
: I think George H.W. Bush would have paid multiple visits but, lacking the
vision thing as well as any understanding of the common man, would probably
register low on the empathy gene scale.


Reagan: He'd know exactly what to do. He'd shed a tear or two, make us proud of
the relief workers and remind us that America's gotten through bigger crises in
the past. It would be one of his very, best roles.


Carter: Jimmy, Roslyn and Amy would not only be on-site full-time. They'd be
dressed in overalls and fully immersed in picking up debris and building protective
barrier reefs.


Ford: A genuinely good guy who had a degree of empathy. I think he'd say and do
the right thing.


Nixon: Forget it. A blue serge suit doesn't work well in those humid Gulf
temperatures. Plus Nixon would blame those nattering nabobs of negativity, the
press, for making a mountain out of a molehill.


LBJ: A Texas native and someone who looked like he was in constant pain, I
believe LBJ would have risen to the occasion and demonstrated the right
combination of empathy, sympathy and pathos.


JFK: He was all about his own image as The Cold Warrior. Displaying any sign of
weakness was a sure sign to the Soviets that JFK lacked the spine to fight a
nuclear war. No tears on the Gulf for this short-lived king of Camelot.


Ike: He was the guy who first warned us about the military-industrial complex
(think: Goldman Sachs and the Securities & Exchange Commission and BP and
MMS). Ike also managed the D-Day invasion. He'd find the fastest solution, but
he'd do so in a cold, dispassionate manner.

Questions?
Comments? Issues? Top-kill alternatives?