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Oh-oh! Politicians share personality traits with serial killers: Study

Using his law enforcement experience and data drawn from the FBI's behavioral analysis unit, Jim Kouri has collected a series of personality traits common to a couple of professions.

Prison Walls

Kouri, who's a vice president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police, has assembled traits such as superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others.

These traits, Kouri points out in his analysis, are common to psychopathic serial killers.

But -- and here's the part that may spark some controversy and defensive discussion -- these traits are also common to American politicians. (Maybe you already suspected.)

Yup. Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office.

Kouri notes that these criminals are psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse.

"This allCapitol Hill Domeows them to do what they want, whenever they want," he wrote. "Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders."

Good grief! And we not only voted for these people, we're paying their salaries and entrusting them to spend our national treasure in wise ways.

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 ...

He adds:

"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."

-- Andrew Malcolm

We are absolutely not seeking to manipulate Ticket readers by glibly saying with superficial charm that they are certainly among the world's most intelligent people. Nor do we seek to manipulate every one of them to click here for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item. Or follow us @latimestot

Photo credits: Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (49)

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I'd say the previous administration is a perfect example.

"...psychologically capable of committing their dirty deeds free of any concern for social, moral or legal consequences and with absolutely no remorse."

This sounds much like Dick Cheney still out there, although less so recently, defending torture.

People are surprised by this? Over one hundred years ago, Lord Acton observed,

"Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

Decent people who wish to live their lives and love their families don't aspire to dictate how other people may live their lives. This knowledge is precisely why so many of us are distressed by the continual tendency to vest more power in the federal government and particularly with the presidency: it gives more and more power to fewer and fewer people.

You can't be more of a serial killer than one who kills upwards of fifty million innocent persons. This blood of abortion is upon the hands of politicians -whether they wear robes in judicial chambers, or sit in congress. Nowhere has it beeen more openly aggregious than the one sitting in the Whitehouse now, with his cold hearted agenda of Obamicide.Pray for them.

And this comes as a surprise to whom, exactly? Congress votes to allow Bush to invade Iraq, tens of thousands die...that's serial murder in MY book!

Did he forget the troll media in his study?

Why not include many of the more arrogant MDs, any CEOs and most other authority figures too? In fact, people being what they are, just about any successful person has to have all the "serial killer" traits to a more or less degree to have gotten where they are.

People with these traits are those that the majority of people, people who are ruled by their emotions and rely on "impressions," really take to. Ever notice the personality of guys who are surrounded by the beautiful women? They don't call them "lady killers" for nothing. And why are women, women who could have any man in the room, attracted to those with sociopathic tendencies?

I've noticed that people not only WANT to be lied to, they DEMAND to be lied to and if you won't or can't do that and can't or won't develop those other traits too, the world has invented names for you -- staff member, nerd and looser. I'd include "square" but the younger people wouldn't recognize the term. Unless you are one them, you will not "get the pretty girl" --- lucky you.

This is hardly new.

Here's the Wikipedia listing of Hare's indicators (does this remind you of any politicians you've seen recently?)

Factor1: Aggressive narcissism

1. Glibness/superficial charm
2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
3. Pathological lying
4. Cunning/manipulative
5. Lack of remorse or guilt
6. Shallow
7. Callous/lack of empathy
8. Failure to accept responsibility for own actions

Factor2: Socially deviant lifestyle

1. Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
2. Parasitic lifestyle
3. Poor behavioral control
4. Promiscuous sexual behavior
5. Lack of realistic, long-term goals
6. Impulsivity
7. Irresponsibility
8. Juvenile delinquency
9. Early behavior problems
10. Revocation of conditional release

Traits not correlated with either factor

1. Many short-term marital relationships
2. Criminal versatility

Gavin Newsom comes to mind.

Dr. Hare has a book out, "Snakes in Suits", examining the prevalence of psychopaths in the upper echelons of corporations and government. Psychopaths make up about 3% of the general population and 20% of the prison population, and are "overrepresented" (Dr. Hare's term) among politicians and corporate executives. As much as 90% of criminals who kill police officers are psychopaths. (The terms "psychopath" and "sociopath" are NOT interchangeable, by the way.) The identification and elimination from society of the psychopath is probably the most important, and the most underestimated, reform needed for both Government and business. Unfortunately, as with most psychological conditions it is impossible to come up with an impartial method of diagnosis, especially since the problem often manifests in degrees of behavior rather than as a clearly identifiable condition. Moreover, Government can hardly be trusted with the right to screen out "potential" psychopaths, since it would promptly set about abusing the power to do so. Nevertheless, until we get rid of these creatures - "intraspecies predators", to quote one psychologist who doesn't consider psychopaths to be human - they will continue slaughtering us, sometimes by the millions.

I think this describes many Republicans, since like sociopaths they reject empathy and animal rights.

From the California Legislature to the White House, this looks like a good fit.

And Tony Villar is a text book example. !!!

Sounds like Obama to me.

I love how you guys look to the Republicans, but skip over the insane democrat/communists in power NOW!

No wonder California is such poor shape.

You take one look at the communist Chicago street thug so-called "president" and you'll see all you need to know about evil!

Millions have died because of communism. And this loon is destroying America at warp speed!

And where is that loser on Iran?

Oh, I forgot, democrats LOVE it when elections are stolen! (see Al Gore's 2000 attempt and ACORN's 2008 win!)

People are being murdered in Iran right now because they are speaking out about the sham ACORN style election as I write this, and good old Barry Soetoro Obama is hiding under his "Resolution" desk!

Thanks loons, you elected a serial killer!

I can see this being real, just take a look at some of these people that have been in office a very long time. I am not singling out either party, but after the RBC meeting I believe most of the cheaters and liars are on the Democratic side. I guess I should change my name to SoCalIndy. I won't ever vote for any Dem that was in office during the stealing of the nomination.

Country before party always!!

These Personality traits allow them to enact Breed Specific laws which target and kill innocent dogs due to looks alone.
Many serial killers start off by abusing animals and it escalates.
Can you imagine any of these Legislators getting away with slaughtering innocent dogs if they weren`t holding Political Office?
They`d be in jail like this kid arrested for mutilating cats in Miami.
Politicians just have other people do the killing on their behalf.
They sleep well at night.
This Study doesn`t surprise me in the least.
Growing up they came to a fork in the road,some were elected to Political Office and some weren`t.

If Obama is a socialist/communist then why is he working so hard to save capitalism?!

It's amazing how many posters read this and think that this only applies to the politicians they don't like. Clearly not all politicians are bad but the reality is that power attracts the most aggressive and self-interested more than it does the conscientious. By simple math and reason it is easy to assess that the people we don't want to attain power will achieve it far more regularly than those we would prefer. Trust none of them and limit all of them. The good ones will not be offended. No one in history has ever prospered under the burden of an unanswerable government.

The previous administration, eh? Sorry matt, this goes for all politicians on both sides of the aisle. If you think that any administration/politician is purely benevolent then you are criminally ignorant. I'm tired of hearing idiots say things like "My party has never done anything wrong and we'd live in perfect harmony if it weren't for that pesky other party." Two sides of the same deceitful coin. Solution? Stronger people, weaker government. Everyone is running around crying for help when they aren't willing to help themselves. Begging for leaders when they're to lazy to find their own direction or lead themselves. Too weak to be an individual and stand on their own so they throw themselves at causes they hardly care to fully understand. I see people on the street screaming about some injustice or righteous cause but when I ask them about the subject they merely regurgitate the sensless garbage thats written on the pamphlets they hand out. You want change you can believe in? Do it yourself and quit electing people that would have the government do it for you.

Ted Bundy (not to be confused too much with Ted Kennedy) was considered handsome, charismatic, and friendly---and his favorite past time was butchering sorority girls like a bad R-film.

Scott, you are precisely right. This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of the type of personality that seeks power over others.

The more power available, the more damage that can be done. Logically, then, we should seek to do as the Founding Fathers did, and limit that power. Unfortunately, "progressives," starting in the late 19th century (see Theodore Roosevelt, Earl Warren, FDR, LBJ, etc.), have given more and more power to government over the years.

It's hard to get the toothpaste back in the tube.

Am I the only one who sees media blowhards like Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc., matching these personality traits too?

Scott asked: "If Obama is a socialist/communist then why is he working so hard to save capitalism?!"

How is Obama trying to save capitalism? By destroying it?

How can you be so blind?

Birds of a feather.

Am I the only one who sees media blowhards like Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc., matching these personality traits too?

Posted by: Mark @ News Corpse | June 16, 2009 at 08:31 PM

Sure. You can also safely add Keith Olbermann, Ed Schultz and David Schuster to your list.

It's amazing how most people will use this article to justify being a Republican or Democrat... if you really loved your country you'd realize it is 99% of politicians. It's this type of partisan bickering and name calling that is crippling the nation and jading your children out of caring about any of it. Thanks.

"Violent homicide aside, our elected officials often show many of the exact same character traits as criminal nut-jobs, who run from police but not for office."

It seems that the distinguishing factor between a violent criminal and a psychopathic politician is social upbringing. The psychopaths that resort to overt violence are simply less 'socially adapated' in so far as they cannot control their pathological urges, which the 'successful' ones manage to do. Avoiding direct confrontation with the law, successful psychopaths can rise to the top of fields that offer power over others. From there they 'become' the law and relish murdering others by proxy.

Of course, not all leaders in business, banking and politics are psychopaths. Nevertheless, as meticulously outlined in Political Ponerology by Andrew Lobaczewski, the influence of a statistically small, but biologically constant, percentage of pathological deviants - comprising pathologies of various and overlapping clusters of traits - plays the catalytic role in infecting whole societies with pathological thought patterns.

I am not at all surprised to read this. Only recently i read a great book called Political Ponerology, that attemps to bring light to the issue of psychopathic individuals and their ascent in positions of power and control. The dire results of this to the world, are evident plenty, if we just take a look around. And somebody mentioned Hare, another great source on the subject.

So yes, the likes of serial killers have been rulling us and determining our destiny for a loooong time now, irrespective of race, ideology, etc. If this is not creepy, i don't know what it is...

Hmmm. Now the last nine years makes sense!

It seems that some posters are still under the spell of the political personalities they find most agreeable. The politicians that ape your supposed morality while they simultaneously paper mache contradictory actions. The classic example of being "pro life" yet not opposed to sending our young men and women to die in a far away desert in an illegal war. Right.

Another example is all the revolting talk about helping "main street" in these tough economic times yet it's the bankers and corporations (Wall Street) that are the ones that actually get bailed out. They lie to us and aren't sorry for it... they just redirect our attention elsewhere or simply stonewall us. And we fall for it every time!

This article about politicians having psychopathic tendencies (or worse!) should make some light bulbs go off in people's heads! Unless one has lost all capacity for logical thought!

I would definitely agree with Kourie’s comments about politicians showing the same traits as psychopaths and serial killers This confirms my own observations when I had jobs working for the big banks and the big
corporations and observing how the top executives operated within these institutions as well as observing those on the lower levels who were obsessed with moving up to the top to become just like them

Considering the fact that the big banks and multi national corporations are really the ones who pull the strings of the political world, one can see how their psychopathic mindset is what literally rules the world.
All of these traits (as outlined by Robert Hare):
“superficial charm, an exaggerated sense of self-worth, glibness, lying, lack of remorse and manipulation of others"’

apply to the vast majority of top politicians, military leaders, and corporate executives who are able to rise to the top because of these very characteristics. It gives them the ‘advantage’ over normal people who have a conscience which inhibits normal people from doing the cutthroat activities of these interspecies predators whose actions show that they can lie, steal, and kill (or let others do it for them) without the slightest remorse of any kind whatsoever. They see human conscience as a weakness, when, in reality human conscience is that inner strength that makes us human.

Oh sure these politicians can at one moment talk a good talk and give spellbinding speeches but then the next moment be total hypocrites since there is nothing inside of them to inhibit them from saying one thing and then acting completely contrary to what they say without the slightest embarrassment or shame.

Dr. Andrew M. Lobaczewski in his book Political Ponerology speaks of these spellbinders. He says :

“The awareness that a spellbinder is always a pathological individual should protect us from the known results of a moralizing interpretation of pathological phenomena, ensuring us an objective criteria for more effective action. Explaining what kind of pathological substratum is hidden behind a given instance of spellbinding activities should enable a modern solution to such situations. ...”

Spellbinders are pathological individuals with pathological egotism. That certainly is a trait common to politicians and psychopaths, as if their all cut from that same cloth.

Take a bunch of these psychopaths, put them in “official” looking surroundings, with lots of tall tables and chairs that intimidate and make normal people feel less then bugs, then give them real serious facial expressions and have them speak with such ‘sincerity’
and authority that would be the envy of the best actors of our day, and of course make sure that they have no real emotions so as to give the illusion that they have complete control of themselves and of their emotions (which hold normal people spellbound who observe this) and what do you have? You have the reality fabrication business.

I think a serial killer was asked why he did what he did and he said he was just “taking care of business.” That’s what politicians do also. They take care of business

What if there are different psychological races of people and some of those were normal and some psychopaths (completely lacking Empathy)? Doesn't it seem possible that some persons could be born without conscious?

I don't find this article to be speculative at all. There are some great books on the subject out there. From what I've read some of the Authors make it sound hypothetical or possible, while the reality is, we've been living under these other types for years.

Snakes in suits is a good one! Anyone know of others?

If more people are interested in reading about psychopathy in our government, I recommend reading;

Dr. Andrew M. Lobaczewski in his book Political Ponerology

''Political Ponerology is an invaluable work that every human being striving to become conscious, should read, not only for its expose of the pathology of the individuals currently in control of the United States government, but also the light it may shed on individuals closer to home, some of whom may be friends, fellow-activists, business or civic leaders. The book's purpose is not to incite paranoia, but to cultivate discernment and buttress our trust of our innate intuition in order to navigate the daunting manifestations of evil that surround us in the twenty-first century.'' -Carolyn Baker

Psychopaths rule! They insist upon having power over any means. You might recall police and spy
agencies use psychological profiles in recruiting new
officers to obtain certain qualities outlined by Kouri in this article. Political parties and their "invisible" handlers like Rockefeller, Rothschild, and Soros also appraise the candidates for office in a similar fashion. They also seem to prefer those with seamy backgrounds that might be not not truly being eligible for the office in the first not being a natural-born citizen, for example. God help us to eradicate psychopaths!!!

It sounds like a Homeowners Association (H.O.A.)

The board members are elected to a position where they dictate how others will live, and have no practical checks-and-balances on their authority to fine and harass other homeowners.

Then they constantly remind the other homeowners that "board members are unpaid volunteers who give freely of their time for the benefit of the community."

Reminds me of John Edwards, and George Bush, and Barack Obama, and Mark Sanford, and....pretty much every conservative and liberal politician in the last 160 years starting with Abe Lincoln (maybe Andrew Jackson).

I think this describes many Republicans, since like sociopaths they reject empathy and animal rights.

Change that to Democrat and the rights of unborn children-- then you'll have an argument. Why do animals deserve more empathy than the unborn?

This is funny! And so obviously true. These people,from Gary Condit to John Edwards and now Gov.Sanford ,Charlie Rangel and Ms.Pelosi all think they are sooooooooo special. In their own heads! TERM LIMITS,PLEASE,FOR OUR CONGRESS..

If I were a serial killer, I think I'd be insulted.

The Irquoi believe that the most evil person is the best leader.
This study vidicates it.

I have been saying for years that the very thing that motivates somebody to hold political office makes that person unfit for that very office - a lust for power. This study just backs it up with data.

And this goes across all political spectrums - Dem, Rep, Independent - etc...

Sadly, short of changing the method of filling political offices to some sort of system of conscription - pulling office holders from the general public - similar to jury duty, we'll never get rid of this cancer. These people are way too good at gaming the system and there are just too many citizens which are supremely easy to fool & manipulate as evidenced by the current good/cop - bad/cop dem/rep dog 'n' pony show. Random citizens would do a MUCH better job of governing than these career sociopaths in spite of all the problems which would ensue.

Most politicians, corporate executives, military and religious leaders are dangerous criminals and need to be removed from society and the human gene pool. Since it's difficult to always identify them, the safest solution is to kill them all and start over, keeping these institutions much smaller than they currently are to limit the damage done by our future 'leaders.'

I have my doubts about this study because from what I can see, most politicians are distinctly lacking in charm and charisma. Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, John McCain, Al Gore -- you see anyone charming in there?

There's the occassional Reagan, Clinton, or Obama, but for the most part most politicians are less charming than the average postal clerk.

When I was in Russia I learned that communism was known as "Monopoly Capitalism"

Bankers are devout communist

There you go.

To all you silly, emotional, liberals who think that the best way to do good in a society is to give the government lots of money and power, there's your answer.

The kind of people drawn to government ,IN BOTH PARTIES, are the kind of people that will use that power and money in the worst sort of way.

That is why governments are responsible for more deaths in the past 100 that any other force we encounter.

When you empower government, you are empowering serial killers.


How else could you defend voting for UnConstitutional wars? Approving depleted uranium weapons? Turning a blind eye to ethnic cleansing in the West Bank? Accept millions in bribes from donors who expect your support even though their agenda is NOT in our country's best interests? Spew rhetoric about family values while making sex tapes with your mistress?

In the history of the world, prostiticians have caused more death and destruction by FAR than all the serial killers combined.

I could have predicted all you partisan dweebs would start pointing fingers at politicans that YOU don't like or who don't fit YOUR agenda. The point here is that all politicians are likely to be psychopathic. Especially the ones you like. The superficial charm and ability to lie is probably why you liked them in the first place. Remeber this next election and next time you open your big complaining mouth about why you dislike Party A candidate and love Party B's

Here's an idea..let's point the fingers on the other side of the respective aisle without realizing BOTH GROUPS OF POLITICIANS ARE SOCIOPATHS. The republicans should not be surprised. The liberals, if that ever was allowed to sink into that lump of flesh they call a brain, would be devestated. Newsflash: People in government only care about themselves and how they can profit, this is why a smaller government is always preferable. But I guess when your special interest group is getting the handout, it's pretty easy to look the other way.

Marc Stevens actually proved that men and women who work for government are either ignorant, stupid, or they are psychopaths. If they are ignorant, they feel guilt when confronted with their actions, and usually abandon or quit their posts.

Let's not forget the professional cheerleaders for the intraspecies predators; the ones in main stream media the predators could not succeed without. Are politicians, CEOs and bankers a step up from real life gigolos? Not really, but they have a bigger platform and budget to operate from.

Now, how long would you let a professional gigolo take advantage of you before you got rid of the bum? Not long, you say. So why let the gigolos in DC, state capitols and Wall Street use and abuse you till you're all washed up? Do we have Stockholm syndrome pandemic here?

Is that a death squad in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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