Why Values Matter: Obama’s Empathy Versus Trump’s EgoismRoundup
tags: political history, Obama, Trump, empathy
Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University.
Although I’ve previously contrasted President Obama’s moral sense with his successor’s egoism, the latter’s recent trip to El Paso, following the mass shooting there, dramatically revealed how Trump’s egoism overwhelms any signs of empathy.
Especially vexing was Trump’s boasting about himself during a visit to an El Paso hospital. Regarding his behavior following the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote, “Me, me, me, me, me. Always me, never anyone or anything else.” And Robinson mentioned Trump’s “stunning lack of empathy,” which was “on grotesque display.” Commenting on the same El Paso visit, CNN’s Anderson Cooper contrasted the empathy displayed by Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush on other tragic occasions with Trump’s egotistic display. “Not normal” was Cooper’s terse summary. Two other commentators were liberal Jonathan Capehart and conservative David Brooks, both on the PBS Newshour. The former contrasted Bush’s presidential comforting in New York after the 9/11 tragedy and Obama’s in Charleston after a mass shooting there to Trump’s empathy deficiency. Brooks’ reaction to Trump’s visit: “He’s a sociopath. He’s incapable of experiencing or showing empathy.”
Obama’s display of empathy in Charleston was nothing new. As far back as his pre-presidential The Audacity of Hope, he wrote that empathy “is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule—not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.” One website has amassed a whole series of Obama video clips in which he speaks of empathy and laments that our country seems to suffer from “an empathy deficit.”