Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why politicians behave like, well, politicians . . .

Today, I'd like to start with one question for you and one question for me:
  • For you . . . What is it with these politicians? Are we ever going to get a batch that really, really takes their own campaign rhetoric seriously?
  • For me . . .Why do I start reading newspapers before I've had enough coffee, knowing there's insufficient caffeine in my system to deflect direct hits to my outrage button?
Maybe I should ease into the news with a quick scan of People, but compulsive worker bee that I am, I usually look first at The Washington Post's (on-line) comprehensive coverage of Washington. There's a series of stories that blinks through at the top of the front page. And this morning's initial blinking story declared that, "New Republican lawmakers are hiring lobbyists, despite campaign rhetoric."

The story opened with this, to my mind, rather distressing example of political flip-flopping.
During his campaign to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, GOP nominee Ron Johnson accused Democratic incumbent Russell Feingold (D) of being "on the side of special interests and lobbyists."
Ron Johnson, campaigning
"After promising voters that he would reform the culture of lobbying in Washington, instead Senator Feingold embraced lobbyists and declared himself to be on their side," a Johnson spokeswoman said at the time.
But after defeating Feingold, Johnson himself has turned to K Street for help - hiring homeland security lobbyist Donald H. Kent Jr. as his chief of staff. 
Johnson is not alone: Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement. 
A bystander runs out and shakes hands with Ben Lujan, running for Congress, during the Wagon Day Bean Day Parade in Wagon Mound, New Mexico.
Politicians do seem to feel very free to say they'll do things they have no intention of actually doing once they're elected, don't you think?

Just as part of what passes for fun in my mornings spent as WMRA's Blogger-in-Chief, I decided to Google "personality traits of politicians." Up popped reportage of a study by fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, Jim Kouri,* comparing the personalities of psychopaths and politicians. The study describes psychopaths (he's mainly, but not exclusively, talking about serial killers) this way:
Interpersonal traits include glibness, superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self-worth, pathological lying, and the manipulation of others. The affective traits include a lack of remorse and/or guilt, shallow affect, a lack of empathy, and failure to accept responsibility. The lifestyle behaviors include stimulation-seeking behavior, impulsivity, irresponsibility, parasitic orientation, and a lack of realistic life goals.
Richard Nixon visualized by Alex Hughes
Mr. Kouri soon goes on to point out . . .
. . . that some of the character traits exhibited by serial killers or criminals may be observed in many within the political arena. While not exhibiting physical violence, many political leaders display varying degrees of anger, feigned outrage and other behaviors. They also lack what most consider a "shame" mechanism. Quite simply, most serial killers and many professional politicians must mimic what they believe are appropriate responses to situations they face such as sadness, empathy, sympathy, and other human responses to outside stimuli.  
. . . While many political leaders will deny the assessment regarding their similarities with serial killers and other career criminals, it is part of a psychopathic profile that may be used in assessing the behaviors of many officials and lawmakers at all levels of government

 The LATimes,  reporting this 2009 study, says,
We don't know Kouri that well. He may be trying to manipulate all of us with his glib provocative pronouncements. On the other hand ...
On the other hand, indeed.

Any thoughts?
*Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.
Jim writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores.
Jim holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional. (Bio from RenewAmerica.com)

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