From the boardroom to the war room
Before their research into corporate psychopathy, Paul Babiak and his colleagues raised several questions in need of answers. They are equally relevant to the study of political psychopathy and can be rephrased as follows:
- How could a psychopath outshine other candidates and achieve success in politics?
- Why would a psychopath want to enter politics?
- How long could a psychopath successfully operate in such an environment?
Jim Kouri, who served on the National Drug Task Force, has trained police and security officers throughout the United States, and was formerly the fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, answered the first question in an editorial for examiner.com:
Quite simply, most [psychopathic] 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. … If violent offenders are psychopathic, they are able to assault, rape, and murder without concern for legal, moral, or social consequences. This allows them to do what they want, whenever they want. Ironically, these same traits exist in men and women who are drawn to high-profile and powerful positions in society including political officeholders.
Politics is a dog-eat-dog world. Not only must politicians be relatively thick-skinned to handle attacks on their character—whether real or imagined—they must also be capable of dishing it out in return. While these are arguably learnable skills for practically anyone, it comes much easier to some. Psychopaths lie with ease; they do not have any moral scruples when it comes to character assassination, empty promises, shameless self-promotion, cutthroat tactics, and using any means to justify the end. These qualities give them the leading edge over their more honest (and often naive) competition.