I have repeatedly leveled the charge that Mitt Romney is a sociopath. That’s a serious charge, and I do not make it lightly. One symptom of sociopathy is pathological lying. Another symptom is shamelessness – and Mitt Romney is a shameless liar.
Romney lies incessantly and repeatedly without the slightest hint of remorse. In my previous post Debatabull, I suggested that President Obama was understandably taken aback by Romney's bald-faced lies during their recent debate.
Mild-mannered pundit David Gergen seems to agree with my assessment. As he put it: “I think [Obama] was surprised that Romney was just sort of flat out lying."
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Before going further, I acknowledge that the official stance of the American Psychiatric Association is that psychopathy and sociopathy are misnomers. That may be the official stance, but I find those terms useful. So do many other people – even some who disagree with my charge that Mitt Romney is sociopath.
I suspect one reason for that disagreement is they don't make a distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy. To my mind, a psychopath is someone like Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer, while a sociopath could be your boss or your spouse – or a candidate for President.
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Certainly, that conclusion can be drawn from the book The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout. Another relevant book is The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. It elaborates on research and clinical studies used for the “Psychopathy Checklist, Revised (PCL-R)” by Dr. Robert D. Hare. That checklist forms the basis for a diagnosis of psychopathy.
Both books affirm the charge that such people are all around us, and Ronson's book states that corporate executives are much more likely to exhibit such aberrant behavior. An excerpt from that book suggests I may be too kind with my distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy:
Bob seemed melancholy. It was as if the crash had made him introspective. He said, almost to himself, "I should never have done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well."
I looked at Bob.
"Do you mean that?" I asked.
"I mean it," he said.
"But surely stock market psychopaths can't be as bad as serial killer psychopaths," I said.
"Serial killers ruin families," shrugged Bob. "Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."
This - Bob was saying - was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn't function right. You're standing on an escalator and you watch the people going past on the opposite escalator. If you could climb inside their brains you would see we aren't all the same. We aren't all good people just trying to do good. Some of us are psychopaths. And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society. They're the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond.
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That brings me back to Mitt Romney. Judge for yourself whether he exhibits any or all of these symptoms of sociopathy/psychopathy:
- Early onset of behavioral problems such as bullying
- Lack of empathy
- Lack of remorse
- Glibness and superficial charm
- Grandiose sense of self-worth
- Manipulative and conning
- Pathological lying
- Parasitic lifestyle
- Feeling self-entitled
- Inappropriate language and behavior
Statements like “I like firing people” and “The poor are doing just fine” are certainly indicative of a lack of empathy and inappropriate language, particularly given the office he’s seeking. And of course, there’s his brutal dismissal of half (47%) of the population as freeloaders and moochers.
As for bullying, there’s the episode at prep school in which Mitt got others to hold a boy down, while Mitt cut his hair. Mitt conveniently (but unconvincingly) claimed he didn’t recall that episode, but four other participants recalled it vividly. Denial is another symptom of sociopathy.
Mitt’s behavior during the Vietnam War seems to repeat that pattern. Mitt marched in favor of the war, while using his religion to get out of fighting himself. Strictly speaking, such behavior may not be deemed bullying; but there's no denying it was cowardly.
Then there’s the episode when Mitt strapped the family dog to the top of his car for an eleven-hundred mile trip. According to Mitt, the dog preferred to be treated so miserably. Again, some may not view that as bullying, but it certainly displays a lack of empathy.
One could also reasonably argue the business methods of Bain were a form of bullying; certainly the workers displaced by Bain view it that way. Such methods are sometimes referred to as “chainsaw capitalism”, a term coined to reflect the practices of another “job-creator”, vulture capitalist Al Dunlap.
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But nothing says sociopath so much as Mitt’s pathological lying. Take his debate with President Obama – please! Here’s a list compiled by The Daily Kos of the lies and distortions Romney stooped to in that debate:
- Saying about twice as many people were unemployed as actually are, thrice during the debate.
- Claiming energy jobs that are already forecasted would result from his presidency.
- Claiming $90 billion was spent on green jobs rather than less than half that.
- Saying half the businesses went bankrupt versus 13 percent (at most), well within the set aside for the nascent industry.
- Slamming the president for $716 billion in Medicare cuts included in the Ryan budget he endorsed, and promoting a private Medicare voucher program that would create issues with affordability and access.
- Hiring more teachers instead of the fewer he advocated for earlier, or would exist under a Ryan budget.
- Wanting small business tax cuts for all companies paying through owners (including Koch Industries).
- Cutting PBS’ subsidy of $280 million in his painstaking quest for solvency.
- Losing sight of the big picture, as he has zero – not the six he said – studies that find his $5 trillion tax cut can be done without raising taxes on the middle class
- Overstating the rise in recent health care premiums by 50 to 100 percent, and misrepresenting the joint effort on health care reform as unilateral.
- Saying he’ll repeal Dodd Frank. But his repeal rather than the bill would be the “biggest kiss to Wall Street”.
- Denying companies that outsource receive tax benefits, including moving expenses and many others.
Despite such outrageous behavior, the punditocracy declared Mitt the winner, and the hoi polloi gave Romney a bump in the polls. That such an obvious pathological liar continues to be taken seriously in his run for the highest office in the land bespeaks a serious problem in America, a problem that goes far beyond Mitt Romney. It appears we have lost our moral compass.
Can it be we have become so inured to lying that we don’t react to it with the righteous indignation it deserves? Or have we become so conditioned by advertising and faux news that we can no longer distinguish between the truth and a lie? Have we fallen so far that we will accept a candidate who so disgraces himself? Can’t we see that in so doing, we disgrace ourselves?
In short, have we at long last no shame?
©2012 Tom Cordle