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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Feeling Their Pain

I can't resist posting on Edmund Morris's Reagan remembrance from last week's New Yorker:

Ronald Reagan's air of gentleness was such that few people noticed, or could believe they were noticing, that he had little private empathy with them. In November of 1988, a delegation of Bangladeshis visited the Oval Office to tell him about the catastrophic effects of the Burhi Ganga floods. After a few minutes, their spokesman stopped, disconcerted by the President's dreamy smile. "You know," Reagan said, "I used to work as a lifeguard at Lowell Park beach, on the Rock River in Illinois, and when it rained upstate you wouldn't believe the trees and trash, and so forth, that used to come down."

This reminds me of Ron Reagan's complaint about Dick Cheney:

How did your mother feel about being ushered to her seat by President Bush?

Well, he did a better job than Dick Cheney did when he came to the rotunda. I felt so bad. Cheney brought my mother up to the casket, so she could pay her respects. She is in her 80's, and she has glaucoma and has trouble seeing. There were steps, and he left her there. He just stood there, letting her flounder. I don't think he's a mindful human being. That's probably the nicest way I can put it.

The Clinton book is currently reminding me of some of the areas in which I disagreed with him (the death penalty, his view of global trade--at one point he favorably refers to Lester Thurow), but one thing is for sure: Clinton could empathize with people.