Empathy May Be Overrated in an Election, and in a Leader

Is empathy an essential virtue for a presidential candidate?

The conventional wisdom is that a good candidate must be able to feel your pain. Bill Clinton was hailed by pundits as a virtuoso of empathy, supposedly riding that quality to triumph over George H.W. Bush, who was so often said to be short of empathy that he felt compelled to tell an audience, “Message: I care.”

Al Gore’s defeat in 2000 was blamed, in part, on his emotional frigidity, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012 on the “empathy gap” with Barack Obama.