It’s tricky to pinpoint the date on which Barack Obama began his make-over from undistinguished senator to Hillary Clinton’s first great electoral disappointment. But, let’s call it June 16, 2006. Delivering the commencement address at Northwestern University, Obama first uttered a phrase that would be slavishly evoked by love-struck journalists many times. The problem with this nation, said the senator, was not so much a budget deficit, but, an “empathy deficit”.
We can read other very similar claims in the current critique of Manus. The rationale goes: the problem here is not only a lack of government empathy -- undeniable, but only part of the horrific policy story -- but our individual failure to empathise.