Romney’s Compassion Problem

Somewhere between his traditional social circle and the broader world — a place inhabited by strangers whose jobs might require elimination in pursuit of profit — Romney seems to lose emotional regard for the troubles of others.


But if compassion is a tempting word for politicians to throw around, it is also a dangerous thing to claim for those who don’t really have much of it, warn psychologists who have identified a clear backlash that tends to result.


“Viewers have the ability to feel that viscerally,” Emma Seppala, associate director of the Stanford compassion center, tells me. “Romney may be better off sticking to sincerity. If he’s sincerely compassionate, then great, people will buy it and his policies will reflect that. If he’s pretending, however, he’s likely going to make more enemies than friends and create discomfort among his viewers.”


Peter S. Goodman