Is Mitt Romney a Psychopath?

ImageListening to this week’s encore presentation of This American Life, I found myself once again enraptured by the story of “the Psychopath Test” as discussed in this book by Jon Ronson. When the show first aired almost a year ago I was taken aback by its story of how the test was created, has been used, and has been abused, over the decades.

But in light of recent revelations I found myself with a different thought running through my head all through the show.

Is Mitt Romney a psychopath?

One segment of This American Life had Ronson give the psychopath test to Al Dunlap, the former CEO of Sunbeam who, much like Romney, liked being able to fire people. He became notorious for doing so and for finding creative ways to do so. Dunlap didn’t score high enough to be considered a psychopath (he had a lot of redeeming features that pointed to his just being some schmuck who enjoyed terminating employment, listen to the show for more) but what about Romney?

So I decided to apply the 20 question PCL-R test to good old Willard. Here’s what I found. Each question is scored on a scale of 0 (not at all applicable), 1 (sort of applicable), or 2 (spot on applicable); feel free to play along at home and see if you reach the same results I do.

1. Glib and Superficial Charm - The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.

Have you ever watched Romney at the debates? Slick, overconfident, and not always willing to let an opponent get a word in edgewise even if he makes an ass out of himself doing it. This is the man who with a straight face could declare that corporations are people with a straight face. In all fairness, any politician (including President Obama) has a degree of superficial charm, but Romney tries to raise it to an art form. Score: 2.

2. Grandiose Self-Worth - A grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.

Again, all one needs to do here is watch the debates. I’m not the first one to raise this question, either; a blog at Investor’s Business Daily (hardly a bastion of radical left-wing thought) reported on Romney’s “cockiness problem” back in February. He likes to brag about what a successful businessman he was, without detailing the fact that what he was successful at was taking healthy companies, destroying them, selling off the remaining pieces, and moving on. He’s also said point blank that rich people (like him) are smarter. So I think this qualifies. Score: 2.

3. Need for Stimulation or Proneness to Boredom – An excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.

How many jobs has Mitt Romney held? He never seems to stick with anything for too long. He got a job at Bain and Company and almost immediately set about creating a spin-off capital group, with which he bought dozens of different businesses, bundled them, sucked the life out of them, and moved on. He kept trying to get elected to political office, succeeding only once and then quitting that job after only one term to pursue another office. The Atlantic Wire did an article not too long ago showing how now that he’s apparently locked up the nomination, Romney is already bored of the race. And I would give credence to a site that says that Romney gets bored easily and is scatterbrained because he’s got so many irons in the fire, but I don’t need astrology to back me up on this. Score: 2.

4. Pathological Lying - Can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.

Do I really need to go into detail on this? No, I thought not. Score: 2.

5. Conning and Manipulativeness - The use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.

6. Lack of Remorse or Guilt - A lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.

I put these two together because I think they are connected. Paul Krugman put it best when Romney said that he isn’t concerned about the very poor, but that’s in general terms. Romney made his fortune by literally destroying thousands of American jobs: shipping some offshore and in some cases just driving other companies he bought into creative bankruptcy so he could scrap contracts, reorganize, and sell off the lifeless remains of the companies to line his pockets. Callous ruthlessness doesn’t begin to describe him. Score: 2 for both.

7. Shallow Affect - Emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.

I did a Google search for “Romney Cold and Impersonal” expecting maybe 1,000 links I could choose a quote or two from; I got over 600,000. At the best of times, Romney’s emotional range seems limited. He’s either glad-handing you, cold as a dead fish, or indignant. Score: 2.

8. Callousness and Lack of Empathy - A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.

I think this has been well-documented above. Romney doesn’t care who he hurts, is contemptuous of people who he sees as not like him, and I think this video best illustrates his lack of tact. Score: 2.

9. Parasitic Lifestyle - An intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.

Romney made his bones in business off his dad’s reputation. He built a firm that was notorious for “vulture capitalism.” We’ve already illustrated how he couldn’t be bothered to stay in the only office he was ever elected to. Score: 2.

10. Poor Behavioral Controls - Expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.

Try to talk to Mitt about his religion? He goes batshit crazy. Ask him about a professional lobbyist he’s hired? He goes batshit crazy. He has a history of fits of temper with law enforcement officers (among others) which at least once led to him being arrested. This video montage shows some of the greatest hits of Romney’s temper and proves that when he’s under pressure, Romney lashes out like a cornered rat. Score: 2.

11. Promiscuous Sexual Behavior - A variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.

This is another easy one. Or at least I think it is; I have no evidence to the contrary. Score: 0.

12. Early Behavior Problems - A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.

We’re just now starting to get the full story on Romney’s troubled childhood, especially his history of bullying. Still, we have enough to clearly score this one. Score: 2.

13. Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals - an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.

I’m hesitant about his one because Mitt has only had one long-term goal. He wants to be President. Some might think that he wants the job so badly because his father failed to get it, but the simple fact is that Mitt Romney is running for President because he believes that God has chosen him for the job. And not in the same way Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Hermann Cain, and Rick Perry all believed that God wanted them to be President; Romney actually appears to believe that prophecy states that he is a Messiah-like figure who will seize power in the United States for the Mormon faith. And how will he achieve those goals? By getting elected to the Senate. What? He couldn’t do that? Then by saving the 2002 Winter Olympics! What? That didn’t work out as well as he thought, either? Well, then by being Governor of Massachusetts! Okay, I served in a job for four years. Now on to becoming President. Score: 1.

14. Impulsivity - The occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.

Although it’s true that Romney shoots from the cuff a little too much, and there’s evidence that the whole “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” incident was impulsive, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. Score: 0.

15. IrresponsibilityRepeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.

While there is certainly evidence that Mitt Romney is irresponsible when it comes to shooting his mouth off, under the terms of this test I see no evidence of this trait. Score: 0.

16. Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions - A failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.

Again, the best example of this is the recent one. Romney still won’t accept responsibility for his history of bullying, insisting he doesn’t remember the incident. Never mind all of the jobs he personally destroyed through Bain Capital. Score: 2.

17. Many Short-Term Marital Relationships - A lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.

Another easy call. Score: 0.

18. Juvenile Delinquency - Behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.

I think one of Romney’s own classmates put it best: “Lord of the Flies.Score: 2.

19. Revocation of Condition Release - A revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.

Does not apply. Score: 0.

20. Criminal Versatility - A diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.

Again, I don’t think this applies. Except for his misspent youth and the one arrest cited above, I don’t think anything Romney has done qualifies as a crime under the law today. Score: 0.

There we go. So what’s Mitt’s final score? Out of a possible 40 points, Mitt Romney scores a 27. While this is considerably on the high side (most people would score a 5 or lower on this test), it does not make him a psychopath. A score of 30 is required for that diagnosis; 27 only qualifies someone for having “criminal tendencies.” It could be argued that the results of this test indicate signs of narcissistic personality disorder and certainly antisocial personality disorder, but in the end Romney just doesn’t quite measure up as a psychopath. Still, enough questions can be raised about his past behavior and his stability to suggest that he is not fit to be President.

5 thoughts on “Is Mitt Romney a Psychopath?

  1. Very interesting read. Both enlightening, and compelling. I love the fairness of it, too. I was prepared to say, “Yes, of course he is!” However, the detailed explanations show that while he may be dangerously close to being a psychopath, he is in fact, just a republican.

  2. Very enlightening. I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t tip over, but he really doesn’t. I rate him a little lower, because hair cut incident happened as a teen, not under 13.

  3. As a matter of fact, both battery… which is what the attack on the younger classmate was…. and impersonating a police officer… which he seems to have done more than once from reading interviews with his friends… are crimes today.

    The first would be considered a hate crime today, not to mention hazing (older students harrassing younger student) and a number of people in Ohio are going on trial for multiple felonies for what? Oh, yes, cutting off other people’s hair.

    Impersonating a police officer is and has always been a crime anywhere I’ve known about, and it is associated with a couple things. The first is theft crimes (robbery, basically) and the second is sex crimes and related crimes like kidnapping. It is not a small issue in my book, at least.

    Top that off with having been arrested for what, resisting? I think he’s got to get scored on that question. I’ve known a lot of people with misspent youth histories who nevertheless managed to avoid ever getting arrested, so I really couldn’t give him a pass there.

  4. Pab, so interesting; thank you (great links).

    Further to Susan’s point, this checklist – the pcl-r – was developed through a series of interviews with prison inmates, presumably none of whom were the sons of Michigan Governors. When it comes to wealthy, “connected” people, some issues, especially those relating to prison records and meeting obligations, will be quite different than they were for the men who spawned the checklist.

    For question 19, “Revocation of Conditional Release”: for the study participants it would mean that the impulse to compulsively engage in antisocial or destructive behavior outweighs its consequences. If Romney, during his “prankster” schooldays, was freed from the threat of consequence by a rich family and cloistering school, does it translate that his self-control was stronger than his impulses?

    For question 15, “Irresponsibility”: again given how the test was developed, it refers to people who would borrow their friends’ last dollars and not repay, or put up their grandmothers’ houses for bond and then skip. Romney never had the need to harm people in such overtly illegal or petty ways when there were so many other means of abusing people financially. And he was so roundly successful at it.

    Somewhere around 10% of corporate executives would score as psychopathic on this test (which fortunately means 90% would NOT). I would venture that they do not score high on recidivism or “irresponsibility” as defined. Which indicates that they were even heavier on the other questions. Doesn’t that mean that we should rephrase for how “the other half” displays its psychopathy?


    Q. 19 formerly “Revocation of Conditional Release,” working title “Impulse Over Ethos” – continuing to abrogate the rights of society at large and seeing yourself in the context of “deserving” something. Claiming when things don’t go your way that someone else is at fault. A tone-deafness to the response that your assertions get from people at large (you don’t see it, and when other people explain it to you, you literally don’t know what they’re talking about). Ties into the “Grandiose” criterion of the test, and justifies acts of domination or destruction.

    Q. 15 formerly “Irresponsibility,” working title “Ignoring Duty” – Disregard for the welfare of those depending on you, whether your tie to them is parental, financial, medical – whatever gives you authority and control. When you consider Romney’s obligation to all those workers whose lives he destroyed when he ran Bain, his “irresponsibility” is of a scale most of us cannot fathom.

    Attila the Hun was realistic in his goals and a lauded warrior rather than a convict. Romney has no loan defaults and only one marriage (though many cars). Still, I wouldn’t want either of those psychopaths running my country.

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