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Updated 10 Feb 2007

There can be no secret personalities by public servants--if you can read tea leaves. From the precinct to the highest echelons of government, or what passes for government, it is the same.

The typical politician must ask for our vote. How else can s/he attain office? Clever politicians say what we want to hear and we vote them into office. They universally try to keep their real intentions hidden.

Politicians, like Leopards,
can roll in the mud and hide their spots,
but they are still leopards.

Complicating things, politicians in America, and democracies in general, have built-in conflicts of interest--between their own agenda and what is in the best interests of those governed. They must always choose, and maybe try to hide their own spots. This is the Achilles heel of democracies. Occasionally statesmen come along, like the two Roosevelts, giants of their times. Statesmen can be of any political stripe. It is their character that counts.

So how can we handle this as citizens? By educating ourselves as to what it is that makes a person, and what goes into leadership with honor. Consider:

  • Our psychological makeup, our psyches: We are born with three dominant components, depending on the situation or need.
    • Inherent Intellectual Skills. (Ego in Freudian terms)
    • Temperament and Personality. (Id as Freud might have it)
    • Character. (Superego as the insightful founder of psychology termed it)
  • Our physical selves show variations in height, weight, strength, endurance, color of skin, eyes and hair, along with a countenance that may be striking, shrinking, beautiful or ugly. These variations determine to some extent how we integrate into the society we were born into. Sexual attractiveness often bears on what we become as well as what we pass on to others.

Our psyches are the more important and certainly more pliable from birth onwards. What we eventually make of our inborn temperament is mostly influenced by our early environment. If we are lucky, our positive traits will find nurture; great athletes are often identified early and encouraged; so also for musicians; curious, insightful people are often encouraged to become scientists, and so on. Too often, as parents and mentors, we mis-guide our children in terms of their natural attributes, and they often miss them as well. This happens for any number of reasons--some follow:

  • All too commonly junior is expected to follow father's footsteps, when he is ill suited to do so.
  • Most parents are naive about the human potential, what to look for, how and what to nurture in ways best for the child.
  • Too few people are themselves nurtured in an environment conducive to self-evaluation and improvement.
  • Empathy, especially in males, too rarely develops, but is badly needed in our polarizing times.
  • Too many teachers are overworked or ill-trained or are not up to providing children the special assistance they need at critical stages even as they are aware of what children can be.
  • Market economies employ advertising and other techniques--basically propaganda--to sell things that may have an unmentioned downside. Similarly, deceit is commonplace in American society. Neither activity provides appropriate role modeling for the next generation.
  • TV, biased, controlled by special interests, pandering to base instincts and laziness, substitutes for healthy nurturing. Too often we are encouraged to go for the "quick fix." For lack of comparisons, few of us recognize how biased the media actually is, how they reinforce conformity ("political correctness," with emphasis on political) and passivity. These largely add up to nurturing conformers instead of thinkers, plodders instead of pioneers. We nurture Authoritarianism in all innocence.
  • Sociopaths, unrecognized, are too-often able to hide their stripes. They begin their handiwork in elementary schools and hone their skill thereafter to the detriment of their fellow students. A few may be elected to high office. If the office is too high to permit remedial action, the nation, or the world for that matter, can only endure and await their demise.
  • Bullies are not redirected early on. They polish their skills for domination on the street--often leading gangs. All too often they become walking time bombs.
  • Too few of us develop reasonable balance between External- and Internal-Loci of Control for dealing with these times of rapid change in modes of living and violence in an ever-shrinking earth.

From the foregoing, one naturally concludes we are being shaped by nature and nurture. Only the latter is currently in our power to do much about any time soon. Of course Authoritarian Personalities can be easily radicalized if the nurture aspect humiliates or alienates. This is happening daily and not just in the Middle East. Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, and drive-by and school shooters are cases in point, right here in the USA.

So how do we read the tea leaves?

  • Think about and assess what we hear.
    • Do we hear solid logic, born of the wisdom of the ages?
    • Do we hear alternative interpretations?
    • Or are we given platitudes, poses and opinions?
    • Or do we hear strong voices, resolute, and fixated on one black-or-white position?
    • Or is the message straight from a playbook of the Christian right, Communist left, or corporate coffers?
    • Or is the message accompanied by charm, delivered by a charismatic orator, who otherwise has little or nothing original to say?
  • We must figure out our own responses to what we hear or read.
    • Can we evaluate all sides of an issue in making up our own minds?
    • Can we verify the accuracy and completeness of the information we need to properly judge what we hear?
    • Can we see the proof in the pudding--does the message fit reality?
    • Or are we swayed by grand oratory and charisma as Hitler's Germans were?
  • Look for evidence of hang-ups and Authoritarianism.
    • Is the message black and white (polarizing or does it concede gray areas (reality and connectedness)?
    • Is the message exclusive or inclusive? Does it say or imply "I can do it" or "We can do it"?
    • Arrogance is obvious, and it is often merely a shield protecting its owner from some uncertainty. Self-assured people listen. Which of these does the subject own?
      • Does the politician get defensive when under attack?
      • Does the politician pass the buck, or does s/he stand up and say: "The buck stops here."?
      • Does s/he try hard to keep promises while avoiding promises of the moon?
      • Does s/he speak candidly or does s/he hunt for words?
      • Is s/he down-to-earth or full of grandiosity?
      • Is there any evidence of intolerance, or Fundamentalism?
      • Are references to control, accountability, and power a means to an end or are they intrinsic to the message?
  • Believe the offhand remarks; they are most revealing. Listen carefully; offhand remarks are far more revealing than any prepared speech or written letter. Since we are all human, we will make an occasional gaff. So look for consistency in such remarks.
  • Look for untruths and inconsistencies in logic. They are attempts to have an issue both ways, to garner votes at best, to manipulate at worst.
  • If behaviors seem strange, look for possible hidden agendas.

How well we can do these things may make or break us in the new millennium if not this century--or decade!

Pat Robertson is a case in consistent statements that are violent at root.

    Quoting from the August 22 2005 broadcast of The 700 Club:

    "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Chavez of Venezuela] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Of course there is a history of one nation assassinating the leader of another, and the US is culpable in such past deeds and attempts. But since when is that right? After getting a lot of criticism, Robertson "apologized." In his apology, Roberston focused only on the "take him out" phrase--out of his original context. He wrote:

    "I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time."

You be the judge. He knew his supporters would not think beyond his explantory (but not really apologetic) words--this technique is too often true of any politician. Changing this dynamic is a motive for this page.

Robertson later clarified his public position on Chavez.

From the February 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes: ( Media Matters )

COLMES: Would you feel better going back to the original comment that if he were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?

ROBERTSON: I think South America would. He is -- he is -- got hit squads. He's a very dangerous man.

COLMES: Do you want him taken out?

ROBERTSON: Not now, but one day, one day, one day. My premise is, and I think as -- you know, until that comment came out, everybody thought Chavez was a fellow having to do with table grapes in California. Now --

HANNITY: I think one thing we could say is, the world would be better off without him where he is, because he is a danger to the United States.

ROBERTSON: Extreme danger.

In another context, on a different subject, Robertson said:

    "You're supposed to be nice to Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists ... Nonsense. I don't have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist."

These consistent quotes came from a man of the cloth, Christian cloth. Do you think for one second that he didn't mean what he said the first time around? This man is a loose cannon in politics. Pat Robertson is not alone. He is just more consistent off-the-cuff than most politicians.

Isn't he at least an Authoritarian Personality talking? Or is he worse, a Psychopath? Take your pick.

To be sure, most of us say things we later wish we had not; after all we are only human. So look for repetition of such behavior -- consistency, as in Robertson's case, similar comments are easy to find. Some he wrote, making the case even more binding.

When we see leopard-like behavior time and again, maybe it is time to conclude that the owner is indeed a leopard.

See Undermining Science for a Leopard of historic importance.


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