Long distance diagnosis is frowned upon because the treatment professional really needs to see the client on a regular basis over a significant period of time in order to develop a supportable diagnosis. (Okay, in the real world, yes, counselors and therapists make snap judgments and those snap judgments are often right on target but that has a lot to do with the circumstances under which the treatment professional encounters the client. Hint: they are already incarcerated.)
The scientific literature on anti-social, psychopathic and sociopathic behavior (the terms are virtually interchangeable; the difference lies in the extent of the aberrant behavior) is itself somewhat psychotic because, when you go down the checklist below, you eventually realize that almost anyone - or even everyone - could be diagnosed as psychopathic at one time or another in their lives.
Depending on which studies you believe, sociopathic behavior is either an inherited trait, a learned behavior, both or neither. Studies have shown that there is a gene that is associated with sociopathic or psychopathic behavior, but only 50% of the children who have this gene become sociopaths and the denominator seems to be the presence or absence childhood abuse or neglect, which leaves us with the same nature-nurture conundrum that affects so much of this discourse, but, in this case, we have an almost unique example of a father-son comparison that might help illuminate the discussion. (The others, of course, are the Adams family and the Bush family.)
In this case, however, the subject of the analysis has been in the full glare of public attention for a very long time, and has a known life history that can support a differential diagnosis.
In public, Romney seems affable enough but somewhat distant from everyone around him, but he smiles just like a regular person, articulates well and appears normal in most respects - but more and more Americans are becoming uncomfortable with the idea of putting Romney into the oval office without really knowing why.
Now, after the release of the notorious "47%" videotape, the widespread reservations about Mitt Romney have even more currency than they did before the video was released.
Republication apologists have been quick to criticize Romney for his comments....and equally quick to dismiss the videotape as a blip rather than a game changer...except for those who have decided to embrace his comments and are urging him to double down on them.
They are, of course, 100% wrong, and here are the reasons:
First and foremost, if Romney tries to back off from the statements he made to a private gathering in Boca Raton back in May, he will prove, once again, that not only do we not know what he stands for....but he doesn't seem to know what he stands for either because, in the months since that private meeting, his public utterances have repeatedly contradicted his earlier statements.
If, on the other hand, Romney steps forward and says, "Yes, I believe these things and here are the reasons why," he will lose all the voters who, up until now, have been giving him the benefit of the doubt, holding onto the belief that Romney is a secret moderate.
In either event, the facts are that it has become increasingly obvious that the face Mitt Romney wears in public is really a mask that he only takes off in private when he is among people he considers friends - people from his own economic and social class - and, when Romney takes off his mask, we really don't like what we see without knowing why.
Romney's obvious obliviousness to the hurtful effects of his ill-considered public statements, such as the ones he made after the tragic events in Libya, pale by comparison with his private statements about the 47% of the American people who "pay no income taxes."
The sheer number of false, misleading and ill-considered statements that Romney has made in public, and his apparent inability to anticipate the negative responses generated by those statements all point to the same diagnosis: Mitt Romney is a sociopath.
Now, as previously mentioned, there are some fine distinctions between sociopathic ideation, psychopathic behavior and antisocial personality disorder. Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is defined in DSM-IV as "...a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood." Despite the efforts of the psychiatric establishment to differentiate between these three disorders, for our purpose, the overlap is more significant than the divergence.
Here, then, is a list of diagnostic characteristics associated with a sociopathic behavior disorder, which was produced by collating and reducing several different versions of this checklist into a single document:
Lack of Remorse
Lack of Empathy
Early Behavioral Problems
Fails to Take Responsibility
Frequent Changes in Occupation/Residence
The identification of these traits within a specific individual are, of course, highly subjective and conditional upon the preconceived opinions of the observer....but some of them are incontrovertible.
Mr. Romney has no reported history of sexual promiscuity...but we can see evidence of the other 13 of these 14 markers for sociopathic behavior.
Go down the list and check off the ones that apply to Romney, remembering that three or more such characteristics is sufficient to support the diagnosis of sociopathic ideation.
In general, sociopaths are usually charming, seemingly self-assured people who have classic "take-charge" personalities that often make them into the kinds of confirmed "control freaks" who find it difficult to accept advice or delegate responsibility to others.
Romney has often been describe in precisely these terms, and the problems in his campaign have been attributed to his headstrong attitude and his micromanagement of the campaign. Where other candidates have teams of people to whom they listen, Romney reportedly has one. The problem with this arrangement is that, when you have only one key advisor, that advisor has too much power over you but, at the same time, that advisor becomes more of an alter-ego than a real advisor because the only way for that relationship to continue is if the advisor follows the lead of the candidate in order to maintain his or her position.
Psychopaths are hard-charging rule-breakers who are often unusually successful in life but suffer from poor impulse control combined with a marked disregard for the well-being of others and complete lack of guilt about the negative consequences of their actions.
Romney's reputation in business exactly fits these parameters. His success at Bain Capital has been associated with his willingness to break the rules of business by coming up with new management strategies while ignoring the effects of his decisions on the employees of the companies that he ravaged while he was the CEO at Bain.
Sociopaths are also pathological liars who are incapable of associating contradictory lies with each other so that they are frequently surprised and often angered when confronted with evidence of their lies.
This one is harder to see, because we have the problem of opinion differences about what is a lie and what isn't. When someone deliberately repeats a statement that is categorically untrue over and over again, that's not a difference of opinion. It's lying. Mr. Romney's occasional embracement of the "Birther" myth, and his categorical refusal to reject the Birthers supports the argument that Mr. Romney lies. The deeper issue is the Big Lie, the constant repetition of patently false statements by Mr. Romney and his surrogates that have clouded the national debate and confused issues that need clarification rather than further confusion.
Tries really hard to be charming, but is disconnected from other people, thinks very highly of himself, but lack humility, lies compulsively but insists upon his truthfulness despite obvious evidence to the contrary, needs constant attention, but dislikes being in the public eye, seems self-disciplined, but has poor impulse control, lacks empathy, is unable to accept responsibility for his own actions, and lacks realistic long-term goals....these are all responsibly demonstrated by specific references to Mr. Romney's observable behavior.
This brings us to the "how" question. How did a man like George Romney produce a son like Mitt Romney?
In the final analysis, the symptoms identified here are generally applicable to many people who have grown up in wealthy circumstances, and many people who become very wealthy on their own. Romney special circumstances is that he grew up wealthy and then became wealthy on a higher order of magnitude than his parents' generation, a characteristic he shares with Donald Trump.
People like Mitt Romney and Donald Trump grew up in comfortable circumstances under which they were reasonably well assured that their lives would be all about what they wanted to do rather than what they had to do.
Because they grew up with silver spoons in their mouths, they cannot comprehend the challenges that the less fortunate face when trying to achieve the same success in life.
In the final analysis, it doesn't matter how he got this way. What matters is how it shapes his personality and how it motivates him in terms of his personal philosophy.
At the risk of exhausting our collective attentions spans, please consider the following:
Glibness: is definable as repeating the same statements over and over again in response to different questions without substantiation . His glib responses to criticism of his 47% comments are that he is running to govern 100% of the people. That's the job, but he's only trying, by his own admission, to get enough votes to win, not to gain the trust of his fellow citizens.
Charming: Charming is hard to define but, like pornography, we know it when we see it. Romney is definitely charming. He has a devastating smile, but he switches in on and off with irritating rapidity. By contrast, Obama rarely smiles as frequently. Another term for charming is actually insincere.
Manipulative: Buying companies, loading them with debt, selling them off and walking away from the debt seems to me to be the epitome of manipulative behavior. Claiming that you are a job creator after exporting jobs to China and India supports the idea that Romney is a job creator but raises questions about where he was putting those jobs.
Condescending: Condescending is the flip side of charming, and Romney is frequently condescending to reporters and questioners. In fact, the other day, he insisted that a reporter reshoot her introduction for an interview because he didn't like her presentation. That's both manipulative and condescending. His comments about how might fare better as a candidate if he were a Latino were deeply condescending to Latinos. So was the chemical tan.
Pathological lying: This is a judgment call. Constant repetition of the Big Lies about Obama, statements that we all know are false on the basis of further reporting on the subject indicates a pathological pattern of lying despite the evidence. The biggest lie -that the Republicans can generate 12 million jobs by cutting taxes without cutting deeply into life sustaining programs - has been contradicted over and over again by just about every economist with any credibility....but he continues to make those statements.
Lack of Remorse: Romney is proud of his role as a job creator, but the truth is that he has exported more jobs than he has created, and cut more jobs than he has created. In fact, he only actually created 500 jobs the ones at Bain Capital itself. As financier he simply funded other people who were job creators but he continues to describe himself as a job creator, which sound delusional when repeated this many times, as though he's trying to convince himself.
Emotionally Unresponsive: Never shows real anger, despite the many criticisms that have been directed at him. His facial expressions, however, are incogruent with his affect. Emotionally unresponsive.
Lack of Empathy: Already covered. When you fire people and feel good about it, you are lacking in empathy.
Poor Self-Control: Stories have been leaking out about outbursts by the candidate in response to the way the media has exploited some of his more damaging malapprops.
Early Behavioral Problems: Stories have surfaced about some very abusive incidents toward gay people in Romney's youth. They were quickly quashed because there were so many other issues that they seemed inconsequential. Perhaps they weren't. Later in life, he got into a tussle with a Forest Ranger that resulted in a Disorderly Conduct charge.
Fails to Take Responsibility: Romney is beginning to blame the liberal media for his faltering campaign, despite the fact that a majority the media outlets are now owned by conservative interests.
Sexual Promiscuity: Absolutely no evidence, thank goodness. This is one Republican who really can keep it in his pants, for a change.
Parasitic Lifestyle: What else do you call someone who has made a fortune by buying and selling companies and often tearing them up in order to create profits.
Frequent Changes in Occupation/Residence: On average, Romney has changed jobs every four to seven years, but each switch has been into a radically different occupation or environment. Usually, sociopaths switch occupations frequently because they are moving on to escape the mess they made. At Bain Capital, Romney had the unusual opportunity to create messes and walk away from them without leaving the company. (Stories have surfaced about how Romney was actually a terrible deal maker; most of the deals he proposed fell through or turned out to be losers. He excelled, however, at analyzing other people's deals and made good picks from those.)
Romney has seven homes. Rich people have lots of homes? Not really. One or two, yes. Not seven. This suggests a peripatetic, rootless lifestyle in which he has not strong commitment to any given community. He's rather like a stateless person. It's interesting that he makes his primary residence in New Hampshire rather than in Massachusetts, where he served as governor for four years.
Individually, these characteristics can all be explained away; collectively, they present a troubling portrait of man who wants power but is unable to accurately articulate exactly what he would do with that power once he has it. And that is a good definition for the psychological profile for a demogogue.