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In simple and precise terms, empathy is feeling what another person feels. It is the perception of another person's emotions. A debate over the importance of empathy in political leadership has generated considerable controversy since the 2008 election. However, Barack Obama's presidency is not the first to be affected by empathy; it has played an influential role in presidential leadership throughout American history. Focusing on the presidencies of Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, this essay explains why empathy is a critical governing and political resource, and argues that a paucity or excess of empathy can prove a dangerous liability for presidents.