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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Must reading for Portlanders

Next year at this time, in thinking about the mayor, the phrase problem child is sure to cross one's mind.

Comments (18)

I read this article last week and found it profoundly sad.

The checklist varies but reckless and violent behavior often shows up. Incidentally, one article said that psychopathic personalities who are dumber often end up as criminals whereas the really smart ones, who can hide it well, can rise to the top often landing in leadership roles.

I've read some studies that claim that 1 out of 10 people have a psychopathic personality. There were 23 candidates in the mayor's race. You do the math.

Thanks Jack, good comment Bill. Now I'm really concerned.

Bill, but the "problem child" article said 1 out of 100. We're ok, right?

I've seen some that have said 1 out of 10, but that does seem incredibly high. I've seen 4% mentioned with different rates for men and women. Hell, I hope 1 out of 100 is too high, but it seems like the experts aren't in agreement.

I just really plunged into this when I read an article about how George W. Bush acted as a kid.

There's even the question of being born that way or becoming that way later. For example could your heart turn cold because of the loss of a loved one? Could it make it worse? I know W. lost a sister when he was young.

There also seems to be a lot of studies of psychopathic personality traits and ADHD. These diagnostic things are tricky, especially if the person is very smart otherwise and has learned to mask his or her deficiencies. It's usually a male thing though.

I know there's a problem with labeling people in our society, but who hasn't met someone and thought, "That guy isn't hooked up right"? You get this weird sense that the normal range of human emotions is missing.

It's a fascinating field, and I think we'd be wise to learn about it for our own good.

Clackastanis need to be on guard, too. For example:

Clackamas River Water employee files complaint, tort claim notice against two commissioners
By Molly Harbarger, The Oregonian
Friday, March 30, 2012

Two Clackamas River Water board members are accused of creating a hostile work environment and retaliating against a staff member for whistleblowing. Vance Voyles, a procurement and conservation coordinator, filed an Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries complaint in early March and a tort claim notice in February that says Commissioners Pat Holloway and Grafton Sterling tried to implicate him in possessing confidential employee information and get him fired.


Commissioners Holloway and Sterling asked CRW to provide legal defense, but first the board asked for an investigation into whether Holloway and Sterling were acting as commissioners when the incidents with Voyle happened. If they were acting outside the board member scope of duties, CRW does not have to pay for their defense.

Complete article here:

Hi Jack:
I read the article, circled back and checked the banner and followup comment by you. The phrase "in thinking about the mayor", "problem child" seems to be your focus. So my question is this, are you implying that either of the two runoff candidtes for mayor (Charlie Hales or Jefferson Smith) fits the profile of a psychopathic individual? My guess is that you are implying Jefferson? Maybe you know more than the rest of us? Care to expand on that. Bill McDonald's comments avoided the issue; so is this subject too sensitive to discuss, or does it open the door for a slander lawsuit? Just asking.

Hi Jack
My bad? Some how my remarks about the "problem child" were posted in the Clackamas River piece. Can you do your magic and move it up to where it's supposed to be? Thanks.

Old Curmudgeon,
I avoided making a definitive diagnosis about Jefferson Smith because I'm not a professional shrink. Oh, and even if a professional made that call, I wouldn't necessarily believe it.

Look, I make a living trying to figure out politicians, then I use humor to try and convey what I think. It is protected free speech, thank God, so if hypothetically, the Facebook co-founder renounces his US citizenship to save big bucks on taxes, I can imagine Mitt Romney saying, "You dummy. Keep your citizenship and just put the money off shore."

Then, hypothetically, that goes on TV or radio and people say, "It's not that funny, but gee, why should we choose Romney when he doesn't believe in America enough to put his money here?" I feel like I know what I'm doing because I've been at it since the early 90s, and if I was off base for very long, the jokes wouldn't sell.

A lot of it is about celebrities and wacky news, but along the way I have to do my best to psychoanalyze our political leaders. Well, guess what? We all do that to some extent with our bosses, our friends, even our spouses. I just market my conclusions, so I have some credentials, even if they're not in the field of psychiatry or anything.

I was sort of stunned when I started forming my impression of Jefferson Smith prior to interviewing him last year. I don't think most Portlanders really understand where this guy is coming from. I do think he's got serious personality issues. His behavior has been reckless and at times violent. He seems grandiose even bragging that the Bus Project made a big difference in Merkley getting a U.S. Senate seat.

I've read that he's been giving medication for his brain, or as he says, ""It’s a matter of public record that I've been diagnosed with ADHD. It’s a weakness I fight."

I know there is a lot of literature discussing ADHD and psychopathic traits, but frankly, I don't know what to believe. I imagine it is a lot more politically correct to say you have ADHD than that you're a psychopathic personality, but what the shrinks really think of Jefferson's brain, and what medications he's really on for it...that's all fair game in a campaign, isn't it?

Isn't it our duty to check this stuff out?

I also was concerned when he used a joke about a blind horse that I thought was cruel. One of the leading warning signs is cruelty to animals. It was only a joke - he didn't say he blew up frogs with firecrackers like I read George W. Bush used to enjoy, but it was a little revealing that he thought this particular joke was funny enough to include in a speech. By the way, I don't have credentials in psychology but I could write a book on comedy. I am an expert on that.

Another danger sign is a predilection for violence.

The Tribune's story about him back in 2009, had this ominous passage:

"Smith recalls losing his temper often during high school and his first couple years at the University of Oregon, even getting into fights at the tavern. 'I was kind of an angry dude,' Smith said."

Of course, he was young then, but if any more recent instances come to light, and can be proved, that would be huge in my opinion.

After my interview, in which he showed a lot of temper he had his people contact my editors and get the interview killed.
He accused me of judging him before we met, based on me watching his speeches and reading about his life, even though that's how we all do it with politicians. We size them up based on debates, etc...very few of us will actually meet with Romney or Obama for some personal time.

I believe what he was really mad about, was that I had figured him out. I was a threat to him because I saw through the noble B.S. to the weirdness below. He proceeded to act exactly as I thought he would. Bombastic, egomaniacal. My God, the guy pours out the B.S. We should hook a turbine up to mouth and take down the dam at the Dalles.

I was so disturbed by him that I actually wrote a song about it called, "Smart Talking Fool"- still available on YouTube.

Another turning point was talking with mayoral candidate Max Brumm. Max has gone from someone who barely knew Jefferson Smith but liked his progressive policies, to someone who loathes the guy and is adamant that Smith should never hold any public office in Portland.

Why is that? I believe the reason is because Max - through the campaign - was given the opportunity to realize what an incredible d*****bag Smith really is.

So is Smith a psychopathic personality? I don't know, but it sure wouldn't surprise me. I wish he'd get tested. We sure don't need a head case running Portland.

But even if he isn't, I can state my honest opinion that the guy is a major jerk, and that most of his followers are being duped. I am very confident about that. He's the kind of politician where you feel it is your civic duty to speak out and try and prevent him from winning any kind of position of power. That's my motivation. It's actually because I don't want to see Portland go through this. Of course you'll hear different from his closest followers who are no doubt angling for gigs in a Smith administration.

One pro-Smith commenter on this blog used the term "unwavering devotion." That's when I came up with the phrase, "the Bus Davidians." Unwavering devotion is not the way to go with leaders. It didn't work at Jonestown, it didn't work with the Heaven's Gate bunch, and it won't work here.

In my opinion Jefferson Smith is bad news, and I hope a frank discussion brings this to light, before we're sitting around missing the good old days of Sam Adams.

Jefferson's dad bought him the bus. Maybe he could buy him a long trip to the shrink's office, too. What's the old expression? A checkup from the neck up?

Bill, thanks for the thoughtful and detailed explanation of your comment. I always enjoy your humor, but your analytical skills have some serious chops too.

Back in the old days when I worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper, the copy editors always told me they could identify the reporter who had sent in a story without even looking at the byline. The same is true of your comments. I recognize your distinctive "voice" a sentence or two into the post.

Anyway, a belated shoutout to say thanks for the funny, poignant and otherwise spot on observations that make this blog even more fun to read.
Best regards,

Thanks for the kind words, but you know what I've been thinking lately? How much we all owe Jack on this deal. Not to mention how much we all owe the tram. If it hadn't been for the tram, a lot of us never would have gotten started here. Ironically, the tram turned out to be the linchpin for some pretty cool friendships.

Well they say you have to be crazy to run for office these days, so no surprise...

Bill and Jack:
Thanks to both of you for your insights. I suppose it was okay to raise my questions because your responses sure opened my eyes and gave me a sense of the history of Jefferson Smith.
The sideline story about psycho analysis was fascinating and educational. Great work tying all this together.Thanks so much.

"you know what I've been thinking lately? How much we all owe Jack on this deal."

Bill, true dat. A HUGE thanks to Jack Bogdanski for the hard work and sheer effort it takes to run this place. Add in tremendous writing skills, Pulitzer-level investigative journalism and a healthy dose of humor, and you've got a world class blog. It's the first place I go on the internet every day. And often the last.

For those interested in additional information that is not too dense and demanding and presented in a way that is intriguing and horrifying, I highly recommend Jon Ronson's THE PSYCHOPATH TEST.

And this one!

The Sociopath Next Door

It should be noted that a diagnosis for ADHD in adults relies primarily on self-reported symptoms and indicators. There is no real test. Take that for what it's worth.

In response to Bill McDonald: Seems that political candidates' personality traits, psychopathology, past history, finances and all other pertinent information may be up for debate and I suppose that may be okay or necessary, but seems it could be a deterrent for anyone without a perfect past to run for office. Maybe that would explain why we have so many sociopath's in powerful positions for they do not care about moral obligation and the climb to the top requires the stepping on others. I do wonder however why someone with that personality trait or as you say possible psychopathology would be interested in progressive values. Seems contradictory. When I think of political psychopaths, Republican values or lack thereof comes to my mind.


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