September 21, 2010
Obama's Empathy DeficitBy Ed Lasky
Barack Obama talks a lot about empathy, but, as is true of many liberals, he does not practice what he preaches.
Obama has the palaver down about empathy -- for him, it was a campaign prop to humanize himself and mark him as being different from cold-hearted Republicans. His was an appeal to our better natures and for our votes. During the campaign, he told students at Northwestern University that "we live in a culture that discourages empathy" and challenged them to cultivate empathy. Empathy -- not Roe v.Wade, not intellect or legal skills -- was to be his litmus test for nominees to the Supreme Court (a qualification found nowhere in the Constitution or in the history of the United States).
We wanted a president who cared about all of us, one who could bring us together. Empathy would be the glue that would bring us together -- a one-word solution, a mantra, that would repair our souls and heal us as a nation. Obama swept people off their feet and into the voting booths. He won; we know because he has repeatedly reminded us. Mission accomplished. Well how has Mother Theresa reincarnate fared on the empathy scale?
Has he not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk? Or was empathy just a word, as he himself would say?
Is el Presidente a role model, or just another scam artist peddling some palaver? I think we all know the answer, but let's look under the hood to see just how bad the empathy problem is with Barack Obama.
Barack Obama couldn't care less about what we think or what we desire (see Barack Obama versus Majority Public Opinion). We have countless examples by now to make this a maxim. We want jobs; he gives us job-killing social engineering that would make the pharaohs faint. We want to keep more of our hard-earned and rapidly decreasing earnings and savings; he wants to tax that away from us. We want cheap energy; he wants to kill the coal industry, raise electricity prices, and all but choke our ability to tap vast oil supplies off our shores. We want good and affordable medical care; his plans will take that away from us. We want security from Islamic terrorism; he does not even recognize the threat and dares not speak the words.
On that last topic, Muslims are victims of their own tyrannical regimes, yet when reformers protest and try to liberate themselves -- as they have bravely done in Iran -- Obama votes "present," giving rise to their plaintive chants -- "Obama, are you with us or against us?" Answer: he is neither with you or against you; he just doesn't care about you. Join the club. As even liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen writes, "at the heart of Barack Obama's foreign policy is no heart at all."
Indeed, when it comes to human rights around the world, Obama doesn't care -- except to use the concept as a cudgel against America. Iranian dissidents (and we) are distractions that might make him miss his tee time or trim his vacation schedule.
Now, some might argue that Obama's role as a community organizer belies this claim. But how devoted was he, really, to helping others, to the poor people he professed to care about? Did he stick it out with them or stick it to them in the end? The Boston Globe portrayed his work as a community organizer as a failure that left many poor people with rotten apartments and in neighborhoods that became blighted. Many of these units were owned by slumlords (as Hillary Clinton noted in one of the debates) close to Obama, including not just the notorious Tony Rezko, but also the Habitat Company, owned by none other than Obama's close friend and perhaps future Chief of Staff, Valerie Jarrett.
Obama grew frustrated easily with his failure as a community organizer and was seeking a way to augment his lust for power. Next step up the ladder: he skedaddled off to Harvard, none the worse for wear. Meanwhile, he left behind a lot of unhappy tenants who at one time believed in him. They were the first of what have become millions in the ever-growing legions of former fans and true believers.
Organizing in poor neighborhoods, did Obama just want to be a big fish in a little pond? As a college graduate, where could he be looked up to and admired? How about working with poor people who could look at him -- a Columbia University graduate -- as a savior? That does seem to be a constant in Obama's career: the desire to be idolized. He grew impatient as an attorney, state senator, and then U.S. senator -- all jobs where he did little work (though he claimed the work of others as his own) and grew easily bored. The bigger the crowd, the happier he was. So did he really want to help people?
How about his legendary cool during the economic meltdown in 2008? Was that confidence or apathy, the diametric opposite of empathy? That was not "grace under pressure" (hat tip: Ernest Hemingway); he just did not care. "No Drama Obama" was really "No Care Obama." Maybe he even had a frisson of joy as he saw his poll numbers rise during the economic meltdown? Did he foresee the serious crisis as an opportunity not to be wasted to reengineer America?
Some might argue that union members (including government workers) have been helped by Obama. Or was Obama just helping himself? After all, he plays by Chicago rules. Union heads, including the former Service Employees International Union head Andy Stern, have boasted of the role they played in electing Obama. Helping union members -- at our expense, by the way -- was just payback and a way to secure his own base in 2012, when he will run for reelection. Was he concerned about the teachers' unions support or needy children when he all but killed off charter schools in Washington, D.C., despite pleas from parents to keep them up and running? Kids don't vote, and their parents weren't donors.
Was his "spread the wealth" gaffe a promise to stoke class warfare and buy votes with taxpayers' money? Only half of America pays income taxes; most of the other half receives "entitlements" paid for by others. Why not offer them even more for their votes? Obama seems to relish the taking more than being warmed by the giving. His energy surges and his rhetoric flares when he rails against "fat cats" and "Wall Street." Envy, not empathy, drives Barack Obama.
How about ObamaCare? Well...let's not give him too much credit for working on that act. "ObamaCare" is a nickname the media have given to what is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Why become a nitpicker? Because Obama did not draft this act; it was the handiwork of left-wing congressional Democrats who have been fantasizing about nationalized health care for decades (as the camel is a horse designed by a committee, so the Patient Protection and Affordable Act will not protect patients or make medical care affordable). Obama does not like getting involved in writing legislation or working out the nitty-gritty details, sources in the White House have informed America; he just was brought in as the enforcer and bully to twist arms to get the bill passed the finish line.
Does he care about how fearful seniors are regarding health care "reform"? Professor Ross Baker said Obama "needs to be a better grief therapist ... he doesn't get the kind of fears that creep up on people when they get older." Seniors, he doesn't care about you. Join the club.
Perhaps a clue to Obama's approach towards "helping people" can be seen for what it really is when we consider his admiration for Ronald Reagan. Of all the Republican presidents for him to express respect for, it was Ronald Reagan, the nemesis of liberals for decades. Why did Obama admire Reagan? For one reason: Reagan was a transformational president. Obama aspires to create an enduring legacy come hell or high water (is he unable to stop the rise of the oceans?), and it will be a radical one, as he made clear in his first State of the Union address. Does he want to help people or just claim enduring fame as a revolutionary leader?
Does Obama even have it in him to be empathetic towards people? We have had a couple of years to appreciate how he treats people, and there are reasons to doubt he has much empathy for anyone -- except for one person and one group (as we will see). How did he react after the Fort Hood shooting? He appeared at a press conference, and instead of lamenting the murder of thirteen people, he began his remarks with a detached "shout-out" to someone he recognized in the audience. Just before he signed the Freedom of the Press Act that Congress passed in response to the brutal beheading of Daniel Pearl by Islamic terrorists, he expressed his feelings -- or rather the lack of them:
The loss of Daniel Pearl captured the world's imagination? Please. Daniel Pearl's family was with Obama in the Oval Office, and that was the best he could do to express empathy? To add insult to injury, he assured that Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's father, did not have a chance to speak. That was an indignity and a shame for the rest of us since Judea Pearl has shown himself to being a loving father and also an eloquent spokesman regarding the dangers we face. Obama did not want to give him the time of day to say a few words about his dead son.
Are we surprised that Obama gave short shrift to the concerns and feelings of people regarding the mosque/community center being built so close to the site of the destroyed World Trade Center? Three thousand-plus victims, their families and friends, us -- are we just bitter Americans who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" (such as terrorists, I might add)? By the way, how does that quote from the 2008 campaign trail (disclosed only because it was secretly tape-recorded by Mayhill Flower) score on the empathy scale? Obama just "didn't bother with feelings," as Margaret Carlson wrote for Bloomberg News. Feelings are what lesser people cling to in his mind.
Did he resign from his church when his pastor Jeremiah Wright chortled after 9/11, "God Damn America" and proclaimed that we had it coming, that "America's chickens are coming home to roost"? Such empathy from a man Obama described as his "moral compass."
Then, sometimes, his lack of empathy shows up in other smaller ways that nonetheless give us insight into his character.
Did he show empathy for our farmers -- the salt of the earth -- when he suggested they grow arugula, a luxury lettuce? Has "let them eat cake" been modernized? He is out of touch and therefore not touched by others.
Did his put-down of John McCain during the health care conference -- "the campaign is over" -- show the magnanimity, grace, and empathy of the winner? Need one ask?
Does his skipping of the traditional presidential visit to Arlington Cemetery to commemorate our dead soldiers show empathy? How about his heading to the links instead of commemorating the tragic death of the Polish president?
Where was he when ice storms swept through the heartland of America, killing scores of Americans and leaving millions without water or power? Not only was he AWOL, but he also took his sweet time declaring hardest-hit Kentucky a major disaster area. Was there no compassion for a red state?
What about that big, bad oil spill? Why should Obama fly down there when there was Paul McCartney to hear in the White House? And more vacations to take?
Obama's addiction to soirées in the White House, golf days (he has played more golf in twenty months than Bush did in eight years), his fantasy camp with basketball legends, and his love of vacations (on which he takes his chef) have been well-covered by others. Consider one point: George W. Bush gave up his beloved golf because it would be morally wrong to play golf when America was at war and our soldiers would lose limbs and lives. We are still at war, yet such reasoning, such care, is foreign to Barack Obama.
Then there is the imperial lifestyle of the first couple: a striking and telling contrast to his repeated calls for sacrifice on our part for the common good. I guess the common good is for common folks. Needless to say, it is rather bad form to live it up while the rest of America is looking for work, afraid of losing their jobs, or clutching their dollars for dear life. Obama tells us to be empathetic towards the world's poor. He lectured us, as is his wont: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times." His carbon-gulping is legendary (a trip to the Great White Way for his and Michelle's Broadway night out, his vacations, his trip to Europe to pitch Chicago for the Olympics, his fundraising and vacation trips, and then there is Michelle's jaunt to Spain); he has a healthy appetite -- see this photo gallery; and he cranks up the White House thermostat to suitably hellish temperatures because he likes it warm and doesn't like wearing suits or donning Carter cardigans.
Obama parties while America falls apart; the White House has become the castle in Edgar Allen Poe's story "The Masque of the Red Death" (where nobles "party on" in isolated luxury while the surrounding land is ravaged by the Red Death, i.e., the plague).
How dumb does he think we are when he says that his family is "not that far removed from what most Americans are going through"? He just doesn't get it, or us.
Should we be surprised regarding this Empathy Deficit? Narcissists don't care about other people -- they are empathy-less. Everything is always about them. Obama is the coddled heir of the Me Generation, hence his self-referential and reverential use of the singular word "I."
Can Barack Obama feel empathy for anyone? Yes, he can. Who might that be? Barack Obama, that's who. He has a surplus of empathy for himself -- it overflows, whether he is whining about the problems he faces or complaining that people don't thank him for all he has done for us ("done to us" is more accurate) or claiming that he is being treated like a dog. Is there any doubt that he is the most self-pitying president ever? Empathy -- he feels it every time he looks in the mirror, and he probably is obsessive-compulsive about that habit.
Is there any group for whom he feels empathy? Does his never-ending outreach to the Muslim world provide any clues? Does his obsequious praise for the fictionalized contributions of Islam to the Western world and to America give us a hint? Does his characterization of the 9/11 mass murderers as a "sorry band of men" elicit empathy from anyone besides Barack Obama? Barack Obama shrugged his shoulders regarding the Lockerbie Bomber's early release -- hey, who cares that the thug murdered hundreds of people.
How about his going to bat for the free speech of the 9/11 mosque-builders but not for Molly Norris, a cartoonist who had to "wipe away her identity" for fear of attacks over a cartoon she drew for Seattle Weekly that might offend Muslims (titled "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day")? How about working to release prisoners from Guantánamo Bay while setting a new record for the president with the smallest number of pardons issued for American prisoners? Pardons and commutations show mercy -- the highest form of empathy. Not there -- not when there are Muslim prisoners to release.
Time to reboot the Robot?
Obama's policies are failing; his popularity is plummeting; he is no longer worshiped -- even union members are having a hard time swallowing the poisonous snake oil he is still peddling. So what is the next scam?
Sam Youngman of The Hill writes,
Gimme a break! He likes hot temperatures, remember? Bill Clinton was a master of empathizing; George Bush with the bullhorn on 9/11 displayed a natural empathy flowing from his faith. Barack Obama has to be told to go on stage and emote. Wouldn't we be better off with the Disney version of Barack Obama -- Robobama, now on display at Disney World along with other animatronic presidents?
After all, we have to pay only the electric bills for that one, and not the trillions in debt he is putting on our balance sheets.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.