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Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

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Election 2000 Reporters' Tipsheet

The purpose of this Tipsheet is threefold. First, it offers political reporters looking for fresh story ideas a sometimes unique, usually unconventional perspective on politics.  Second, it serves as a repository for research-based political analysis. Predictions in this Tipsheet are, in effect, research hypotheses to be tested prospectively against actual outcomes, this in turn serving to refine the guiding theory of personality and leadership that informed the predictions in the first place. Third, it aims to provide voters with politically unbiased, nonpartisan insights into aspects of candidates' personal character likely to impinge on their public lives, policy preferences, and leadership.

SPJ award-winning newspaper column

rball.gif (335 bytes) January 11, 2002

Personality profile of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden

rball.gif (335 bytes) October 11, 2001

Personality profile of September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta

rball.gif (335 bytes) September 17, 2001

Masterminding, orchestrating, and consummating political terror and mass murder

rball.gif (335 bytes) September 12, 2001

Psychological effects of World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings on American social identity and public opinion

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 6, 2001

Debunked: "Lovenstein Institute" report that George W. Bush "has lowest IQ of all presidents of past 50 years" 

Additional investigation following the previous Tipsheet entry revealed that the presidential IQ report ("Report: President Bush has lowest IQ of all presidents of past 50 years") attributed to the (fictitious) Lovenstein Institute is a hoax, debunked July 18, 2001 by, an urban legends website (click here to read the exposé; click here to read the original report, published in the fictitious "Pennsylvania Court Observer."  In a Lexis-Nexis search, I found the hoax reported as factual information in at least four foreign newspapers: Guardian ("Diary" by Matthew Norman, July 19, 2001), The Express ("By George he's the dimmest," July 20, 2001, p. 8, no byline), the Scottish Daily Record ("Dumbya's dumb day" by Alexandra Williams, July 20, 2001, p. 2), and Bilt Zeitung ("Bush dümmster Präsident seit 1945 -- IQ nur 91," Aug. 1, 2001, no byline). 

Aside from the factual errors noted in's debunking, the story is transparently bogus, given that JFK (IQ reportedly 174) actually tested at 119 (though admittedly on the relatively crude Otis test) and Nixon (IQ reportedly 155), actually tested nearly a full standard deviation lower, at 143, according to the historical record.  Given his academic record, Bill Clinton (IQ reportedly 182) probably has an IQ quite similar to that of Al Gore (who tested at 134, according to the public record).

In short, our presidents aren't nearly as smart as the bogus Lovenstein report would have us believe. Given that intelligence tests are standardized with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, the average Democratic president, with a "Lovenstein IQ" of 156 (i.e., +3.7 SD) would be in the top one-hundredth of one percent under the bell curve -- that is, the top 10,000th relative to the general population in intellectual ability). Moreover, it is unlikely that there would be a gap of nearly three standard deviations between the IQs of Democratic ("Lovenstein IQ" = 156) and Republican ("Lovenstein IQ" = 115.5) presidents.

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 2, 2001

George W. Bush's intelligence quotient

Yesterday I received a telephone call from the Washington correspondent of a German newspaper, who related to me the findings of "a group in Pennsylvania" concerning George W. Bush's IQ, reported in the German paper, Bilt Zeitung. The reporter wanted to discuss my published estimate of Bush's intelligence quotient (published at

After unsuccessfully searching Lexis-Nexis for foreign and domestic newspaper and wire reports, I found some information on the "Bush Watch" site (at  A copy of the report is appended to this Tipsheet entry.

The reported IQ estimates are suspect, given that JFK (estimated IQ 174) actually tested at 119 (though on the somewhat inadequate Otis test) and Nixon (estimated IQ 155) actually tested nearly a full standard deviation lower, at 143.  Given his academic record, Bill Clinton (estimated IQ 182) probably has an IQ quite similar to that of Al Gore (tested at 134).

The whole thing sounds bogus.

Copy of the Bush Watch posting attributed to Jennifer Borenstein of Baskerville News Service:

"The intelligence of our presidents has never been seriously scrutinized at any time in our history until now. There is a widespread perception that President G. W. Bush is not qualified for the position he holds. That increasing awareness by the people has led to a study of the intellectual ability of all presidents for the past fifty years. There have been twelve presidents in that time, from F. D. Roosevelt to G. W. Bush. All were rated based on scholarly achievements, writings that they alone wrote, their ability to speak effectively, and a number of psychological factors. The conclusions of the study, conducted by an independent think tank located in Scranton, Pennsylvania were surprising. This think tank includes high caliber historians, psychiatrists, sociologists, scientists in human behavior, and psychologists. Among their ranks are Dr. Werner Levenstein, world-renowned sociologist, and Professor Patricia A. Williams, a world-respected psychiatrist. All members of the think tank are experts at being able to detect a person's IQ from the criteria stated earlier. After four months of research, these learned men and women have determined the IQs of each president within a range of five percentage points. The IQs listed below are the norms for each president.

147 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) 132 Harry Truman (D) 122 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) 174 John F. Kennedy (D) 126 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) 155 Richard M. Nixon (R) 121 Gerald Ford (R) 175 James E. Carter (D) 105 Ronald Reagan (R) 099 George HW Bush (R) 182 William J. Clinton (D) 091 George W. Bush (R)

The non-partisan researchers who evaluated the twelve presidents determined that the six Republican presidents for the past 50 years had an average IQ of 115.5, with President Nixon having the highest IQ, at 155. President G. W. Bush was rated the lowest of all the Republicans with an IQ of 91. The six Democrat presidents had IQs with an average of 156, with President Clinton having the highest IQ, at 182. President Lyndon B. Johnson was rated the lowest of all the Democrats with an IQ of 126. The margin of error is plus or minus five percent. This study was initiated on February 13, 2001 and completed on June 17, 2001. This study validated the widespread feeling of people about the sitting president. President Bush was rated low because of his inability to command the English language, his lack of any scholarly achievements, and an absence of anything authored by him that would reflect an intellectual effort." -- "Jennifer Borenstein, Baskerville News Service, 6/28/01"

rball.gif (335 bytes) June 13, 2001

McCain 2004?

Despite Arizona Sen. John McCain's recent denial, his personality profile suggests a willingness to risk an independent run for president in 2004.  A winning ticket with established name recognition: McCain-Feingold.

rball.gif (335 bytes) November 10, 2000

Not so fast

    Disillusioned voters who have leapt to the conclusion that it's time to rid ourselves of the Electoral College in favor of electing the president of the Unites States by popular vote should consider that the current system has generally served us well. Abandoning the Electoral College may have unanticipated consequences, such as the collapse of the two-party system, the need for run-off elections, and the marginalization of smaller states in the electoral process. If indeed change is called for, compromise solutions ought to be considered. One such remedy would be to award one bonus point to the winner of the popular vote for each state won in the Electoral College.

    For example, assuming George W. Bush wins Florida while Al Gore wins the popular vote and is declared the winner in the closely contested states of Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Oregon, the final Electoral College tally will be Bush 271, Gore 267. But as winner of the popular vote, Gore would gain an additional 21 electoral votes for winning 20 states and the District of Columbia, giving him a final tally of 288 electoral votes to Bush's 271, thereby winning the presidency. Case closed -- at least for Gore supporters.    

rball.gif (335 bytes) November 7, 2000

    Based on the "personality effect" model for predicting presidential election outcomes developed at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, the projection for the 2000 election is Bush 51%, Gore 44%.   This does not factor in the standard situational and economic variables included in typical regression models, which likely will have an attenuating effect on a purely personality based prediction.

    For more detailed prospective analysis:

"Personality may overpower pundits, polls in this election" by Aubrey Immelman. St. Cloud Times, October 1, 2000, p. 9B.

"Why Gore won't win" by Aubrey Immelman. St. Cloud Times, July 9, 2000, p. 9B.

rball.gif (335 bytes) November 2, 2000

    On the October 31 edition of Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor," host Bill O’Reilly, in his interview with Democratic strategist Victor Kamber, appeared mystified about Vice President Gore’s flagging poll numbers -- though he later suggested in no uncertain terms that it signifies "a crisis of character."

    "Why is Al Gore running behind if the economy is strong and he has a better grasp of the issues?" said O’Reilly. The answer is simple, and it’s not "a crisis of character."

rball.gif (335 bytes) October 23, 2000

Concerning the current controversy over the desirability of President Clinton campaigning for Vice President Gore, suffice it to restate Tipsheet's Aug. 15 position:

The morally upright, conscientious Al Gore's real leadership limitations relate to huge personality-based deficits in the ability to arouse, engage, and direct the public (technically, "mobilization").  As such, what Gore really needs is a charismatic, outgoing, likeable, persuasive front man to massage his public relations.   Lieberman, though better suited than Gore, is not the ideal candidate for this pivotal role with respect to electoral success . . . but, having chosen Lieberman as his running mate, all Al Gore can really do to make the best of a difficult situation is to embrace Bill Clinton as his campaigner-in-chief.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this may be Al Gore's last best hope to win the White House in November.

rball.gif (335 bytes) October 11, 2000

Psychological analysis of Vice President Al Gore's pattern of "embellishment."

rball.gif (335 bytes) October 3, 2000

How Bush can exploit Al Gore vulnerabilities in the presidential debates

    The media hype in the days preceding the first Bush-Gore debate converged on Al Gore's skills as a debater.  With the exception of Gore's tendency to lose his footing when forced to depart from script, little has been written about his considerable vulnerabilities -- particularly those embedded in his underlying personality pattern.  For example, it may not be generally recognized that Al Gore would be more likely to lose his equilibrium if his loyalty to President Clinton were questioned than he would if accused of standing by a president that brought dishonor to the Office.

rball.gif (335 bytes) September 28, 2000

The "mole" in the Bush campaign

    On September 26, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quoted Molly Beth Malcolm, Texas Democratic Party chair as saying that Karl Rove, George W. Bush's chief political consultant, contrived the 'molegate' incident "to create a distraction from a campaign struggling to regain its footing."   Malcolm reportedly said, "This has Karl Rove's fingerprints written all over it" (though offering no proof to substantiate her allegation).

    Bush has the potential to win the 2000 presidential election by a 5-point margin if he runs an effective campaign from here on out and holds his own in the presidential debates.  In fact, indications are that he could win by double digits if Al Gore stumbles and Bush doesn't.  As predicted in March 1999, the election is Bush's to lose.  Should "molegate" turn out to be an unauthorized dirty tricks ploy on the part of Rove, it could cost Bush the presidency.  For Bush to preclude the inevitable political fallout in the event of the FBI fingering his campaign, he should fire Rove -- or those responsible -- sooner rather than later.  Should Bush fail to deal swiftly, surely, and ruthlessly with campaign staff implicated in the videotape debacle -- instigating, complicity in, or cover-up -- the likely outcome is his defeat in November.

Addendum, October 9, 2000 — CNN reports "a senior Bush adviser" as saying that the FBI "has notified the Bush camp that none of its campaign officials are a target of the federal investigation."

rball.gif (335 bytes) September 5, 2000

    The likely political fallout from George W. Bush’s open-mike gaffe ("There’s Adam Clymer -- major league asshole from the New York Times") in Naperville, IL, yesterday? Little or none: Leaders with Bush’s personality profile "have a charming, engaging personal style that tends to make people like them and overlook their gaffes and foibles." (From The Political Personalities of U.S. Presidential Candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore by Aubrey Immelman; paper presented at the Twenty-Third Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Seattle, Wash., July 1-4, 2000)

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 30, 2000

    Commentary on Tony Snow’s interview with David Maraniss, co-author, with Ellen Nakashima of The Prince of Tennessee, a new biography of Vice President Al Gore, on "Special Report with Brit Hume," Fox News Channel, August 23, 2000. (Interview excerpts copyright © 2000 Fox News Channel, Inc.)

TONY SNOW: Let’s just begin first with, what is your most . . . lasting impression of Al Gore as a person?

DAVID MARANISS: Well, that he’s a complex person, sort of dichotomous. People talk about the public Gore and the private Gore, one being looser and the other stiff. That’s a stereotype really, but there is some of that in him and there are so many ways that he’s sort of two people. You know, . . . people want to say, . . . he’s the elitist from the Fairfax Hotel, or he’s the farmer from Tennessee. Actually, both of those parts of him are in his nature and they conflict sometimes so that, you know, he’s . . . a very competitive person, a classic politician in that sense. And yet he really, in some sense, doesn’t even like politics. So . . . there is always that conflict within him.

COMMENTARY: Al Gore is extremely conscientious, almost to a fault. A central trait of highly conscientious people is their preference for polite, formal, and "correct" personal relationships. Obviously, this kind of tendency poses less of a constraint in more informal situations, for example, with close friends and family members, where they may exhibit a dry, self-effacing sense of humor. Incidentally, Al Gore has attributed his public stiffness and formality to "a vestige of the style of upper Cumberland, Tenn., ‘that emphasizes formalism in public presentation’" (Eric Pooley & Karen Tumulty, "Can Al bare his soul?" Time, December 15, 1997, pp. 44-51). A more reasonable explanation is that Gore’s dignified bearing is simply the function of a pervasive, central personality orientation -- his conscientious personality pattern with its proclivity for propriety, formality, and emotional restraint. Furthermore, as an introvert, Al Gore has an inherent disdain for social intercourse. Introverts are most comfortable in more private settings or when alone. In public settings their social communications are expressed in a perfunctory, formal, or impersonal manner.

SNOW: He doesn’t like politics? This is a guy who has a reputation of being a savage campaigner.

MARANISS: He is a savage campaigner. He is incredibly competitive. He will do what it takes to win a campaign. That’s based on his competitive nature more than his love of the political game.

COMMENTARY: In fact, Gore’s defining quality is conscientiousness, not aggressiveness or competitiveness, though he is moderately competitive (but no more so than George W. Bush). Hard work is a hallmark of conscientious personalities; they are diligent, disciplined, and -- if they have the ability -- high achievers in their chosen endeavors. Thus, Gore’s savageness as a campaigner is more a function of political calculus than gut instinct. He is sufficiently diligent and disciplined to learn the moves of "what it takes" in terms of savaging his opponent. In this, Gore is helped by his introverted tendency: these personalities are able to focus and do not have a strong need for approval, as do outgoing personalities such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, or Jack Kemp, who may hold their fire under similar circumstances -- for example, in a debate setting.

SNOW: So what is it about politics that he doesn’t like?

MARANISS: Well, he doesn’t necessarily like all of the extraverted . . . posturing in that sense. He would really rather probably be in his office talking to Leon Fuerth about arms control, you know, his arms-control expert, or some scientist about global warming. That really is the part of government that Gore enjoys. It’s the handshakes and all of that and the -- you know, he only gets through that because he’s so competitive.

COMMENTARY: Maraniss is correct as far as the introverted Gore’s disdain for the "extraverted" aspects of politics is concerned. However, Maraniss’s conclusion that Gore "gets through" the public aspects of politics on the strength of his competitiveness is questionable. More accurately, Gore muddles through by dint of his conscientiousness -- his diligence and his sense of duty. He can learn the steps, even though he has no feel for the music. In The New Yorker last year ("The wind on Capitol Hill," Oct. 8, 1999, pp. 40-41), Jane Mayer reported: "Even his supporters worry that the real Al Gore is not a natural politician. In a recent conversation, President Clinton suggested to a confidant that the only reason Gore ever sought the Presidency was to please his father. . . . Clinton went on to say . . . ‘but for his father, he would have been a professor, or something more solitary.’" Mayer then quotes the confidant as concurring that "‘Gore is the most introverted person I’ve ever seen in public life.’ . . . ‘When I watch what he does, it’s heroic. He works like a dog -- but it’s excruciating.’"

SNOW: With all the things he has going for him, why has he felt compelled at various times to sort of fabricate things about himself?

MARANISS: Well, you know, with President Clinton, it seemed to me that most of the times when he was stretching the truth it was to try to cover something up, and with Al Gore, there is no such thing. It’s just -- he wants to look even better than he is, so there is no really good reason for it. Some of the more noted cases are really unfair to him. . . . but . . . there are very definitely some cases where he does exaggerate, and I can only think it’s because he’s sort of -- wants to be perfect.

COMMENTARY: Maraniss is basically correct, but his assertion that Gore "wants to be perfect" is unsubstantiated. A plausible reason for Gore’s drive for perfection is that conscientious personalities, in spite of their social propriety and moral rectitude, often harbor a fear of disapproval and rejection, or a sense of guilt over perceived shortcomings. As I noted in a recent opinion column, "How would Gore govern? Meticulously" (St. Cloud Times, Aug. 13, 2000, p. 9B), "Highly conscientious, dutiful, moralistic personalities such as Gore are their own worst enemies, prone to nit-pick themselves for failing to live up to their self-imposed exacting standards and lofty ideals. Ironically, despite their foremost status among personality types with respect to diligence and dependability, more than any other personality type they dread being viewed as irresponsible, slack in their efforts, or in error, with a corresponding tendency to overvalue aspects of themselves that signify perfectionism, discipline, and prudence. Al Gore’s sometimes disingenuous overstatement of fact (witness the "Love Story" flap, his "no controlling legal authority" snafu, and the "inventing the Internet" imbroglio) should be seen in this light -- as pure personal folly, not an expression of fundamental mendacity or a fatal flaw of character."

SNOW: How do you explain, also, a disjunction that a lot of us who have been around Gore have seen, which is, behind the scenes he’s loose, he’s relaxed, he’s engaging, he gets on stage and he’s a different guy. Why is that?

MARANISS: Well, you know, it’s very, very true with television in particular. I mean, producers -- every producer you talk to -- will say, you know, he’s nice before, you know, he’s great before the cameras are there, and then he just, he says stuff that’s unusable once the camera is on the air. And the interesting thing to me, Tony, is that he’s known about this whole thing for a long time. His thesis at Harvard -- his senior thesis in government -- was on the role of television and the presidency and leadership, and how you had to be a good communicator to lead. He’s been struggling with that ever since. And once in a while, he will break out, but very rarely.

COMMENTARY: As stated earlier, as an introvert Al Gore has an inherent dislike of social intercourse. Introverts are most comfortable in more private settings. In public settings their social communications are expressed in a perfunctory, formal, or impersonal manner. Moreover, as noted earlier, highly conscientious people like Gore tend to have a formal, "correct" demeanor in public settings, which reinforces his naturally introverted, retiring nature -- a tendency that is especially acute in public settings. Add to this the ironic tendency of conscientious personalities to fear disapproval for not being sufficiently conscientious (as noted above) and it’s easy to understand how Gore might bomb in public.

SNOW: He got high points for his delivery of the speech before the Democratic National Convention last week. Do you expect to see him sort of following on that, or do you see him lapsing back into the kind of stiff and old wooden style?

MARANISS: His level of confidence has an enormous effect on his public appearance. . . . If he’s in trouble or uncertain about what he’s talking about, then he will revert back.

COMMENTARY: Maraniss is correct in his assessment. More to the point, Gore’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was highly rehearsed, and studious, detailed preparation is what conscientious personalities do best. In his recent article in Atlantic Monthly, ("An acquired taste," July 2000), James Fallows gave an excellent account of Gore’s exhaustive preparation for his 1996 vice-presidential debate against Jack Kemp. As Fallows notes, for most of the week preceding the debate, Gore and several dozen advisers went into seclusion on the outskirts of Sarasota, the venue for the debate, "to get their man in tip-top, physical, intellectual, psychological, and rhetorical shape." Gore will undoubtedly be similarly programmed for his debates against Bush, but it goes without saying that Gore cannot control everything that happens in the debate. If caught off-guard by Bush -- "amBushed" -- Gore, as Maraniss accurately notes, will likely revert to his more familiar, less polished, personality-congruent style.

SNOW: Now, here is a guy who, with the exception of the 1988 primaries when he ran for president, has never lost anything. He’s got a lot of reasons to be confident. But does he lack confidence? Is that part of the problem, or part of the mystery?

MARANISS: He’s a fascinating study in confidence and insecurity. He has almost a righteousness, or self-righteousness about things that he’s certain of that he can reduce to science or fact. Once he’s decided on something is right and he can prove it empirically, he’s almost immovable and confident. But if it’s anything -- has to do with intuition, or instinct, or something where he’s not as certain about, he has a level of insecurity that was striking to members of his staff.

COMMENTARY: As noted personality expert Theodore Millon explains, the defining feature of the self-image of conscientious individuals (like Al Gore) is righteousness; they view themselves as scrupulous, meticulous in fulfilling obligations, and loyal, despite sometimes being viewed by others as high minded, overperfectionistic, and fastidious. Conscientious personalities tend to overvalue aspects of themselves that exhibit virtue, moral rectitude, discipline, perfection, prudence, and loyalty, and are fearful of error or misjudgment. Maraniss’s assertion with reference to intuition should be viewed from the perspective of Gore’s introversion. The defining feature the cognitive style of retiring, introverted individuals is that, in the social and personal spheres, their communication often loses its purpose or intention, becoming vague, obscure, digressive, or unfocused; however, this tendency typically does not hold true in the intellectual domain. Thus, highly introverted personalities may grasp grammatical and mathematical symbols with infallible precision yet falter in their comprehension of nonverbal communication, including facial expressions, gestures, and voice timbre—those affect-laden metacommunicative qualities that suffuse the formal structure of communication.

SNOW: How important is his wife to him?

MARANISS: Crucial. I mean, you saw that from the moment she went out on stage and started dancing with the drummer, and the kiss -- all of that -- I mean, Tipper Gore really brings Al Gore to life. She’s the oxygen for him.

COMMENTARY: Some psychologists believe that outgoing, sociable personalities (such as Tipper Gore) are good partners for conscientious personalities (such as Al Gore), offsetting some of the intrinsic dullness in the existence of these individuals. The benefits are reciprocal: conscientious personalities, in turn, bring some order and stability to the lives of their more impulsive, extraverted partner, who typically lacks the conscientious personality’s organization, attention to detail, and ability to prioritize tasks, and may be prone to intense and shifting moods. In this regard, it is interesting to note that George W. Bush’s wife Laura seems more conscientious and socially retiring, like Al Gore, whereas Bush is more gregarious and cheerful, like Tipper Gore. Thus, the two potential "first partners" display a similar emotional balance in their respective marriages.

SNOW: Now, there have been a lot of people saying, "well, that was staged." Do you think that was staged, or do you think it was spontaneous - - the kiss?

MARANISS: It was both. It was both. I mean, it was -- clearly, they wanted to do it, you know, it was a remarkable -- I mean, it’s so funny how politics turns on the craziest things, but that kiss had a symbolic value that even they couldn’t have imagined at the time.

COMMENTARY: Short of a confession by the Gores, we have no way of knowing whether the kiss was spontaneous or planned. Convention speeches being highly staged, reason dictates that the kiss was programmed. However, Maraniss may be right that the kiss was both spontaneous and planned, in the sense that its duration and intensity may have been a function of forces unfathomable to the outside observer, and best left private and inscrutable.

SNOW: Is Clinton going to be the ambassador to Democratic base voting blocs, like is he going to be the guy who shows up at black churches and that kind of thing?

MARANISS: He probably will do some of that. I mean, that’s definitely an easy place for him. Al Gore is actually very good in black churches himself. He knows scripture. He knows that language. He’s very comfortable there. It’s one of the few places where you see the looser Al Gore.

COMMENTARY: Rather than distance himself too far from the president, Al Gore should attempt to remain his "own man" while finding a way to embrace Bill Clinton as his campaigner-in-chief (see Aug. 15).

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 29, 2000

COMING UP LATER THIS WEEK: Why a Gore administration is more likely to go after the entertainment industry than a Bush administration.

Excerpt: When Clinton goes, Hollywood's extended honeymoon with Washington may finally be over. Unlike Bill Clinton, Al Gore has little emotional need to be stroked or validated, and less need for basking in the reflected glory of celebrities. But he is potentially a moral crusader and could take up the sword against the entertainment industry once elected, if persuaded by a Vice President Lieberman or the new first lady. . . .

Related article: "What the debates won't tell you: Bush and Gore on digital music" by Julene Snyder. The Industry Standard's BEAT SHEET (A Weekly Report on the Convergence of Music and the Net), August 29, 2000.

ALSO: Commentary on Tony Snow's recent interview with David Maraniss, co-author of the new Gore biography, The Prince of Tennessee.   Find out what it is about Al Gore that Maraniss got right, and what it is about Gore that Maraniss was not sufficiently skilled to see. 

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 28, 2000

Terriers and Hostages

"We cannot let terrorists and rogue nations hold this nation hostile or hold our allies hostile." (George W. Bush, Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 21, 2000)

"The episode provided a glimpse into the Republican presidential nominee’s political sensibilities. He doesn’t have a passion for soaring oratory or fact-packed policy dissertations. He gets bored giving the same speech day after day and sometimes he doesn’t muster the energy for a good performance. As off-key as Bush can be sometimes, he can also be riveting when he connects." (Quoted from "Bush can range from inspiring to confusing" by Judy Keen, USA Today, August 28, 2000, p. 8A; emphasis added)

"George W. Bush’s major personality-based leadership strengths are his skills in connecting with critical constituencies and mobilizing popular support, and his ability to retain a following and his self-confidence in the face of adversity. His major limitations include propensities for a superficial grasp of complex issues, being easily bored, acting impulsively, and favoring personal connections, friendship, and loyalty over competence in his staffing decisions and appointments." (Quoted from the abstract of "The political personalities of U.S. presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore" by Aubrey Immelman; paper presented at the Twenty-Third Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Seattle, July 1-4, 2000; emphasis added)

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 22, 2000

    On August 21, having had the opportunity to reflect on the latest polls, Fred Barnes, on Fox News Channel's "Special Report with Brit Hume," finessed his earlier prediction (see Aug. 21, below), saying, "I expect Bush to be slightly ahead, 3 or 4 points" on Labor Day.   Political commentators often point a finger at politicians for "flip-flopping."  Consumers of political commentary could as easily point a finger at analysts for serving, at times, as mere filters for public opinion polls. [See Sept. 3 addendum, below]   (Less egregious, by far, than former administration officials whose political commentary is less impartial analysis than partisan mouthpiece for their former bosses.)

    If one averages's Battleground 2000 tracking poll for Jul. 31 to Aug. 3 (Republican National Convention) and Aug. 15 to Aug. 18 (Democratic National Convention), the numbers look as follows:











    It is risky to base strong inferences on these numbers until comparable data becomes available for the last week of August, by which time the postconvention atmosphere will be more stable, less volatile.   One rational inference would be that on Labor Day Bush will be within about three percentage points of 47 in the Battleground poll, and Gore within about three percentage points of 38.  Given that the Battleground poll has tended to show a larger lead for Bush than have other polls, a judicious prediction would be that Bush will lead Gore by 44 to 41 percent.  The worst-case scenario for Gore is a Bush lead of 50 to 35 percent on Labor Day, which could foreshadow a repitition of the 1980 election outcome in the race between Reagan and Carter -- two personalities that bear important similarities to, respectively, George W. Bush and Al Gore (though the latter's personality probably is more similar to that of Walter Mondale or Michael Dukakis).

    Addendum, Sepember 3, 2000 — On September 2, on Fox News Channel's "The Beltway Boys," Fred Barnes predicted that Bush will be slightly ahead of Gore, but inside the margin of error in the post-Labor Day polls.  Although Barnes did not offer a specific number, this prediction is essentially similar to his Aug. 21 prediction.  Given that a Newsweek poll showing Gore leading Bush by 49 to 39 percent had just been released, Barnes's prediction reflects consistency and restraint (and perhaps just a little pro-Republican sentiment).

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 21, 2000

    On Aug. 19,'s Battleground 2000 poll showed George W. Bush leading Al Gore 45-40 percent, compared with 47-38 percent before the start of the convention.  "The bottom line," said pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group -- the Republican half of the bipartisan Battleground poll -- "is the average bounce for a Democratic convention is 10 points, and the bounce for this convention is two points," adding, "I don't know that they're going to get much more than they've gotten."  The Battleground poll was completed before voters in the Eastern and Central time zones had seen Gore's acceptance speech on the final night of the convention.  A Newsweek poll, also conducted before and after Gore's speech, showed Gore leading Bush by 48-42 percent.

    Over the weekend, on Fox News Channel's "The Beltway Boys," Mort Kondracke predicted a 12-point lead for Bush by Labor Day, and Fred Barnes a 7-point lead.  Both agreed that this was a "no-bounce convention" for Gore.  But a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, taken after Gore's speech, on Friday and Saturday, showed Gore drawing ahead of Bush in a statistical dead heat of 47 percent for Gore and 46 percent for Bush.  Bush had led Gore by 16 percentage points in the previous CNN poll, conducted just before the Democratic National Convention.

    It is difficult to draw firm conclusions from polling trends in the immediate aftermath of the Democratic National Convention.  It cannot be ruled out that the so-called "convention bounce" is accounted for, in part, by the "mere exposure effect" and by the differential salience [see Addendum] of the candidate during his convention -- Gore, in the case of last week's convention in Los Angeles.  Also worth noting is the statistical concept of regression to the mean.  Al Gore's poll numbers have been so unrealistically low -- 31 percent compared with 49 percent for Bush immediately after the Republican National Convention, according to the Battleground poll -- that there's nowhere for Gore's numbers to go but up (though nowhere near the levels suggested by the Newsweek and CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls).  With the current volatility of the polls, the safest bet right now is to treat the current poll results with caution.  When the postconvention dust begins to settle in a week or two, one variable will remain as it was before: the candidates' personalities.  And unless Gore has been supremely successful in altering public perceptions, the most viable prognostication remains that of "The Beltway Boys."

    Addendum, August 22, 2000 — In's Battlegound 2000 poll, 77% of respondents on 8/18/00 (the day after the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention) reported having recently "seen, read, or heard" something about Al Gore and his campaign for president, versus 65% on 8/3/00 (the day after the conclusion of the Republican National Convention).

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 17, 2000

Calling the 2000 Election

    In an era where civic values are increasingly shaped by entertainment industry standards, personality plays a pivotal role in a presidential candidate's voter appeal.  Taking stock of the likely impact of the personalities of George W. Bush and Al Gore on the public's perception of the candidates, a plausible scenario is that the 2000 election results will follow a pattern similar to that of the 1980 election, in which Ronald Reagan carried 44 states and defeated Jimmy Carter with a margin of 51% to 41% of the popular vote, with independent candidate John Anderson gaining close to 7%.

    The outgoing, gregarious Bush shares many personality characteristics with Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and to some extent Bill Clinton. The conscientious, introverted Gore is most similar to Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Hoover. No candidate with Gore’s personality profile has been elected president since the advent of television; among candidates of this era, Gore most closely resembles Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, and to a lesser extent Jimmy Carter.

    The conventional wisdom among political commentators that this will be a closely contested race constitutes wishful thinking more than empirically validated substance or rational analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Gore and Bush candidacies.  As an early indicator of a potential double-digit victory for Bush in November, look for Al Gore to emerge from the Democratic National Convention without the customary bump in the polls.

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 17, 2000

Political analysis of the worst degree

    Commentary on former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett’s response to a question by Brit Hume, in Fox News Channel’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

Relevant excerpts from "Fox Special Report with Brit Hume"

Brit Hume (co-anchor): We’ve looked back pretty far, hundred years or more, for a time in which the nominee of the incumbent party has been rejected by the voters when there was no war and no serious international crisis—no hostage situation, nothing like that—and the economy was growing, and growing smartly, and perceived to be growing. . . . It’s never happened, and one would think that that’s a powerful argument that the election is still Gore’s to lose. Polls suggest that it’s the other way around. Do you believe that in the end, the factors that have governed before won’t govern here?

Bill Bennett (Empower America): I don’t believe they will, because I think there is one other thing. . . . I think the American people want to take a bath. In think that their number one priority, the thing they’re most worried about is moral decay and moral decline. Al Gore was the affiliate, in some ways the enabler, in some situations of Bill Clinton.

Paula Zahn (co-anchor, interjecting): You can’t tie him to President Clinton’s indiscretions, can you?

Bennett: I certainly can . . .

Zahn (interjecting): How was he an enabler for Monica Lewinsky?

Bennett: Because he didn’t speak up, because he didn’t do the things that he should, because he’s tried to say that it was just a personal mistake. It wasn’t a personal mistake. It was a violation of law. . . . He’s not, in terms of the record, a straight-forward and honest guy, and I think people have had enough of that. . . . [T]he country knows that it mattered, and I think the country wants to look in another direction. . .

    This is political analysis of the worst kind—nothing more than an expression of Secretary Bennett’s personal biases and severely moralistic conscience. At no point in the Lewinsky saga or subsequently has there been any evidence of a majority of voters subscribing to Bennett’s thesis. All indications are that the key to Gore’s lackluster poll numbers is his personality style. Stated differently, if George W. Bush and Al Gore could trade personalities, Gore would be ahead in the polls. Speculative, certainly—but more substantial than Bennett’s bombast.

 rball.gif (335 bytes) August 16, 2000

    In today’s issue of the Chicago Sun-Times, Dennis Byrne ("All over but the pomposity," p. 49) writes, "In his 40-minute swan song before the Democratic National Convention, President Clinton took credit for everything good, except creating the Internet." This perspective is quite typical of the president’s critics. The fact of the matter is that this tendency is entirely consistent with Bill Clinton’s ambitious, self-confident personality. The defining feature of the cognitive style of these individuals is their extraordinary confidence in their own ideas and potential for success. As personality expert Theodore Millon (1996) explains in his authoritative personality text, these individuals tend to exaggerate their achievements, transform failures into successes, construct lengthy and intricate justifications that inflate their self-worth, and quickly deprecate those who refuse to accept or enhance their admirable sense of self. These are the very qualities that permeate the political persona of Bill Clinton.

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 15, 2000

    Whereas George W. Bush needs Dick Cheney to make up the rear guard for real limitations in his leadership style and substance, namely personality-based deficits in the organizational skill and ability to craft specific policies (technically, "orchestration"), Al Gore needs Joseph Lieberman to cover for public misperceptions of his character with respect to honesty and integrity.   The morally upright, conscientious Al Gore's real leadership limitations relate to huge personality-based deficits in the ability to arouse, engage, and direct the public (technically, "mobilization").  As such, what Gore really needs is a charismatic, outgoing, likeable, persuasive front man to massage his public relations.   Lieberman, though better suited than Gore, is not the ideal candidate for this pivotal role with respect to electoral success and consummating one's policy judgments in office; but, having chosen Lieberman as his running mate, all Al Gore can really do to make the best of a difficult situation is to embrace Bill Clinton as his campaigner-in-chief.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but this may be Al Gore's last best hope to win the White House in November.

COMING UP -- Why the pundits are wrong when they predict that the Bush-Gore contest will be a "close race."

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 8, 2000

    One cannot help but wonder -- given Gore’s substantial prior "Boy Scout" reputation for personal integrity -- about the persistence which Gore’s character has been called into question. Political commentators have all but typecast Gore as a "panderer," while more strident critics have impugned him as a liar (see Bob Zelnick’s Gore: A Political Life, 1999, pp. 113-114, 306-308 for an account of this trend).

    What may not be widely known among political reporters and the public at large, is that fundamentally conscientious personality types such as Gore -- despite their occasionally moralistic "solemn, high flown conceits" as The Wall Street Journal’s Timothy Noah called it, or "stiff-necked condescension" in the words of biographer Bob Zelnick -- typically follow regulations closely, are staunch defenders of rules and standards, and are generally responsible, reliable, proper, prudent, self-disciplined, and restrained. As personality theorist Theodore Millon puts it, they "are meticulous in fulfilling obligations, their conduct is generally beyond reproach, and they typically demonstrate an uncommon degree of integrity."

    But in a sense, they are their own worst enemy, susceptible -- like Woodrow Wilson -- to self-defeating behaviors and prone to self-doubt or guilt feelings for failing to live up to exacting standards and lofty ideals. Ironically, despite being the most industrious, reliable, and efficient of personality types, more than any other personality type they dread being viewed as irresponsible, slack in their efforts, or in error, with a corresponding tendency to overvalue aspects of their self-image that signify perfectionism, prudence, and discipline. Al Gore’s sometimes disingenuous overstatement of fact (the "Love Story" flap, the "no controlling legal authority" snafu, and the "inventing the Internet" imbroglio) most likely should be viewed in this light -- and not necessarily as an expression of fundamental mendacity or a fatal flaw of character.

    Former New York governor Mario Cuomo stated it best when, on the Aug. 7 edition of MSNBC’s edition of "The News with Brian Williams," he stated, "The idea that Joe Lieberman is going to serve as some kind of palliative for a fault that Al Gore never had, is kind of ridiculous to me. . . . He’s intelligent, he’s careful, he’s moderate; he could be the president tomorrow. He amplifies all of Gore’s strengths, whereas Bush had to select someone who compensated for his weaknesses."

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 7, 2000

How Joseph Lieberman "balances" the Gore ticket

    Al Gore’s selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman as his running mate offers a telling insight into what the vice president regards as his political Achilles heel in his bid for the presidency: the character question. As such, there is a distinctly defensive aspect to Gore’s choice (granted, the best offense may be a good defense).

    The political fallout from Gore’s ostensible fundraiser at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in 1996, the "dialing-for-dollars" debacle, and the specter of President Clinton’s sexual misconduct in the Oval Office are all likely to hound Gore in the home stretch of his presidential campaign. Lieberman’s impeccable record on matters of ethics and his moral authority in being the first U.S. senator to roundly condemn the president’s behavior in the Lewinsky matter gives Gore a modicum of political cover. Who better to vouch for Al Gore’s character? (Sen. Lieberman’s selection also is likely to bring out the so-called "Jewish vote" in New York, which could help Hillary Clinton in her Senate race.)

    Psychologically speaking, the most interesting aspect of Gore’s selection is that conscientious personalities such as Gore typically view themselves as (and usually are) industrious, reliable, and efficient, yet are prone to self-doubt or guilt feelings for failing to live up to an ideal. Being principled, prudent, and dutiful, conscientious people are particularly sensitive to charges of impropriety, which is devastating to their righteous sense of self. In this sense, Gore’s choice of a running mate has the same flavor as his enrollment in Vanderbilt Divinity School following his return from Vietnam, "tormented" -- as Gore biographer Bob Zelnick suggests -- "by guilt for having participated" in "a war that was brutal and wrong."

rball.gif (335 bytes) July 30, 2000

How Dick Cheney "balances" the Bush ticket

    In his book, The Psychological Assessment of Presidential Candidates (1996), political scientist Stanley Renshon provides a useful tool for anticipating likely presidential performance. Renshon proposes that personal character shapes three critical components of competent executive leadership: mobilization -- the ability to arouse, engage, and direct the public; orchestration -- the organizational skill and ability to craft specific policies; and consolidation -- the skills and tasks required to preserve the supportive relationships necessary for a president to implement and institutionalize his policy judgments.

    As president, Bush’s outgoing personality will be instrumental in rallying, energizing, and motivating others, and in concert with his political connections will stand him in good stead with respect to mobilization.

    In the sphere of orchestration, Bush’s relative deficit of personality traits related to conscientiousness (for example, sustained focus and attention to detail), along with his extravert’s impulsiveness and susceptibility to boredom, may serve as an impediment to presidential performance.

    Bush is no "policy wonk" -- an attribute firmly embedded in his personality -- though as governor he has proven himself adept at delegating the more mundane aspects and minutiae of the day-to-day operation of his office. This particular leadership skill -- rooted in Bush’s dominant personality attributes, including the drive to excel, goal-directedness, and proficiency in taking charge and seeing that the job gets done -- will also aid Bush in the arena of consolidation, where it will potentially augment his outgoing, "retail" politician’s skills in consummating his policy objectives.

    In this light, Bush’s selection of Dick Cheney as his vice-presidential running mate has a compelling logic. The presence of the seasoned, battle tested former congressman, White House chief of staff, and secretary of defense on the Bush ticket may reassure voters who question the navigational skills of a would-be president whose deficits as a commander-in-chief are concentrated in the realm of orchestration, the organizational skill and capacity to craft specific policies.

rball.gif (335 bytes) June 16, 2000

    Commentary on Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Douglas Brinkley, director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies and professor of history at the University of New Orleans ("The O’Reilly Factor," Fox News Channel, June 15, 2000).

O'REILLY:  . . . All right. Let's go over to Governor Bush. . . . I have inside information here, and I'm going to give it to you. . . .
[Later, near end of interview:] Here's who it's going to be. Are you ready?
BRINKLEY:  I'm ready.
O'REILLY:  Are you ready, Professor?
BRINKLEY:  I'm ready.
O'REILLY:  John McCain.
BRINKLEY:  Well, if it was McCain, I think . . .
O'REILLY:  That's who it's going to be.
BRINKLEY:  If it is McCain, I . . .
O'REILLY:  You heard it here.
BRINKLEY:  . . . think it's going to be a victory for Bush and McCain
O'REILLY:  He's going to do it. McCain is going to do it. You know, he denies it, he denies it, he denies it. Bush doesn't even want him. Bush doesn't even like him,
okay. They don't like each other. They personally don't like each other. But it's going to be like Kennedy and Johnson.
BRINKLEY:  Kennedy and Johnson. Well, that's going . . .
O'REILLY:  It's going to be the same thing, and you're -- and you're not going to know until Thursday. They'll -- the big kahuna speeches at the Republican
convention in Philadelphia, still not going to know. And, all of a sudden, they're going to come out with the hands up, and people are going to go absolutely nuts.
BRINKLEY:  If -- well, if that happens, it is going to be a very, very strong ticket, and it's bad news, indeed, for Gore. The one thing Gore can't have happen is have McCain join that ticket with George W.
O'REILLY:  Yeah. That's what's going to happen, unless there's some, you know, crazy -- but that's my inside information, all right. Boy, do I put myself on the limb
or what?
BRINKLEY:  Well, it's -- well, McCain's the loose -- is a loose -- can be a loose cannon, and Bush is going to have to be very careful with that.
O'REILLY:  He can, but they don't care. They just want to win. They'll deal with the cannon later. And you know the vice president. They can give him an office in
Wisconsin. I mean, that's the way it is.
BRINKLEY:  And a deal could be struck if Bush decides that "I'll do the -- the campaign finance reform and make it part" . . .
BRINKLEY:  . . . "of the platform."
O'REILLY:  And "I'll make you -- we'll give you this policy territory that you can be the policy czar on all of this," because, you know, Bush doesn't want policy
anyway. He's not a policy guy. He's not a policy guy.

    As noted on March 24 and May 9 in this Tipsheet, McCain’s personality profile not only predicts that he will not seek the number-two position on the Bush ticket; it also predicts trouble for Bush, should he choose McCain as his vice-presidential running mate.  But the irony is that Bush does not need McCain to win the election; he can pick virtually anyone he wants and still beat Gore (see "The risks of relying on charisma" for an explanation).

rball.gif (335 bytes) June 4, 2000

    Claims of a "new Rudy" notwithstanding, logic dictates that New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani remains the dominant, aggressive, controlling personality whose combative orientation was as crucial to his successful track record as a prosecutor as it has been in his crusade to clean up the mean streets of New
York City; abrupt, drastic changes in behavior are more indicative of an individual's response to powerful situational forces than of lasting personality change,
and more often than not reflect transient, temporary adaptations to an immediate crisis.

    Without denying the importance of critical life events, basic personality patterns are remarkably stable by midlife. In a sense, the more things change the more they remain the same. But the fateful events of the past month have shown that the firebrand Giuliani is able to take stock of his priorities, see the bigger
picture, and curtail his baser, more aggressive impulses.

    If his brush with mortality teaches Rudy to restrain the beast within and harness its strength more skillfully, he will emerge from this crisis as a formidable force in
politics -- no longer fuming but still with that old fire in the belly.

rball.gif (335 bytes) May 9, 2000

    Despite John McCain's "straight talk" that he "would not under any circumstances consider being vice president," speculation remains rampant that McCain may accept the vice-presidential berth on the Republican ticket if Bush offers it to him. We repeat what we wrote in this Tipsheet on March 24: "McCain’s personality profile does reliably predict . . . that the competitive McCain will not seek the number-two position on the Bush ticket. Indeed, it is difficult to contemplate a set of circumstances under which the dauntless, proud McCain would be to the son what Dan Quayle was to the father."

rball.gif (335 bytes) April 22, 2000

   If Vice President Al Gore truly wants to create distance between himself and President Clinton, the seizure of Elian Gonzalez by federal agents in Miami today offers a unique window of opportunity. But it will take courage and shrewd political calculus: Gore may have to relinquish his vice presidency to capture the imagination of the American people. 

    The pros:

    The cons:

    On balance, there is little likelihood that Al Gore will resign over a relatively minor issue such as the controversy over the Justice Department's handling of the Gonzalez matter, which culminated in the armed raid on the Gonzalez home in Miami. One of the core characteristics of Gore's personality is loyalty, as he aptly  demonstrated in his unflagging support for the president during the Clinton impeachment saga and his fund-raising enthusiasm in the cash-hungry Clinton-Gore reelection campaign. Furthermore, Gore's personality type is the epitome of prudence, restraint, and risk aversion.

    Thus, it's a fair bet that these are the images that will haunt Al Gore in the final months of his bid for the presidency: a Buddhist temple, enthusiastic support for a disgraced president at a post-impeachment rally, and an automatic weapon framing the fearful face of a terror-stricken six-year-old.

    Addendum, 4/24/00 — Early polls indicate that most Americans approve of Attorney General Janet Reno's actions in extracting Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives. This makes it even less likely that Vice President Gore will make any drastic moves (though it does create additional opportunities to demonstrate his independence, character integrity, and credibility as a leader).    

rball.gif (335 bytes) April 15, 2000

   Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura's veto yesterday afternoon of the "women's right to know" bill is fully consistent with his personality profile. The bill, which created a 24-hour waiting period, would have required women seeking an abortion to first receive information on issues such as the medical risks of the procedure, the availability of medical assistance benefits, their legal rights to seek child support from the father, and alternatives to abortion.

    Reading from a prepared statement, Gov. Ventura said: "I have heard from the good people of Minnesota. And listening to the people has brought me back to the convictions that have always been the centerpiece of my administration. Convictions like personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and limited government."

    As we noted in two recent personality profiles, "dauntless" personalities such as Jesse Ventura "view themselves as self-sufficient and autonomous. They pride themselves on their independence, competence, strength, and their ability to prevail without social support—and they expect the same of others" (Jipson & Immelman, St. Cloud Times, Feb. 6, 2000). They value mutual independence, meaning that they are not only self-sufficient and autonomous, but that they "expect each individual to be responsible for him- or herself" (Immelman, Minneapolis Star Tribune, July 8, 1999). For this reason, dauntless personalities such as Ventura (and John McCain) are also likely to favor limited government. Gov. Ventura's triad of "convictions that have always been the centerpiece" of his administration—personal responsibility, self-sufficiency, and limited government—is personality based. It predicted his veto of the "women's right to know" bill and sheds light on future choices he will make as governor. 

rball.gif (335 bytes) April 8, 2000

    The Bush "Smirk" Outgoing personalities such as George W. Bush typically view themselves as charming, affable, and well liked and are confident in their social abilities. In this light Bush's so-called "smirk" does not reflect the kind of narcissistic entitlement, arrogance, or condescension suggested by observers such as Chris Matthews of CNBC's and MSNBC's "Hardball" (click here for excerpts). The much-vaunted nonverbal signature most likely signifies little more than Bush's self-assured awareness that he can stand his ground and, if need be, readily charm and influence others. To the extent that the facial expression conveys smugness, it is not of a primarily narcissistic nature. Narcissistic personalities classically convey an imperturbable, unflappable mood with a coolly unimpressionable demeanor and an insouciant air of nonchalance.

    Addendum, 5/8/00—Bush, in his own words (click here)

    The Gore "Lies" Conscientious personalities such as Al Gore typically perceive themselves as industrious, reliable, meticulous, and efficient. They tend to nit-pick others as well as themselves, and are prone to self-doubt or guilt for failing to live up to an ideal. Being conscientious and dutiful, these individuals are particularly sensitive to charges of impropriety, which is devastating to their righteous—occasionally self-righteous—sense of self. Similarly, they dread being viewed as irresponsible, slack in their efforts, or wrong, with a corresponding tendency to overvalue aspects of their self-image that signify perfectionism, prudence, and discipline. Vice President Gore's sometimes disingenuous overstatement of fact ("Love Story," "no controlling legal authority," "I invented the Internet") should be viewed in this light—and not as an expression of fundamental mendacity or a fatal flaw of character. 

rball.gif (335 bytes) April 7, 2000

    President Clinton's response to the Elian Gonzalez dilemma.   President Clinton likely is on the right side of the law in his expressed preference for returning Elian Gonzales to Cuba in the custody of his natural father, Juan Miguel Gonzales. What if any personal factors could conceivably have exerted an influence on the president's decision-making process? Bill Clinton never knew his father (cf. David Maraniss, First in His Class, 1995, pp. 28-29), Bill Blythe, who died three months before the birth of the future president. But the question of whether his personal history played any role in the president's preference for uniting the Gonzalez boy with his father cannot be directly discerned from Bill Clinton's personality profile—and must, therefore, remain a matter of conjecture.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 31, 2000

    In this presidential election year, Republicans will attack Al Gore on two major fronts: policy and character. Voters will be told that Gore's policies are risky and that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Interestingly, however, Gore's personality profile contradicts both arguments, undermining their cogency and credibility. Al Gore's primary personality pattern is conscientiousness. Conscientious personalities not only are cautious and risk-averse, they also are more likely than most personality types to be truthful and honest. According to personality theorist Theodore Millon, conscientious personalities typically are prudent and restrained, diligent about their responsibilities, do their best to uphold rules and standards, follow given regulations closely, and tend to be unbending in their adherence to social proprieties. This is a far cry from the image of Al Gore that his opponents will attempt to create in the public mind between now and November.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 24, 2000

    This could this be the year for an independent presidential candidate, and if it's not going to be John McCain, a John McCain may have to be invented. Imagine two contestants in a singing contest—one of whom clearly knows the lyrics but cannot carry a tune; the other musically in tune but at a loss for words. Reason dictates neither should be overly confident of winning the prize. And so it may go in the 2000 presidential election. Independent and undecided voters may feel caught between the rock of a candidate with substance but little style and the hard place of a stylish candidate lacking in substance.*

    Should this transpire, a viable independent candidate who—in the minds of voters—talks straight and knows his tune, will encounter an ample harvest of independent, uncommitted, and first-time votes ready for the picking. For many, John McCain seems to fit this bill. A Newsweek poll published in the news magazine's March 20 issue, showed McCain (32%) practically even with Bush (35%) and beating Gore (28%). However, the conventional wisdom is that McCain is too loyal a Republican to ditch his party for an independent run at president. Certainly McCain has much to gain from sticking with the Republican Party. Nonetheless, it bears note that of all the presidential contenders in the 2000 election, John McCain alone has a clearly "dauntless" personality—front-runner among character types least likely to choose group loyalty over individuality when the latter proves more expedient in realizing one’s personal ambition. Blind (or selfless) loyalty is more closely associated with conscientious personalities such as Al Gore.

    McCain’s final decision, of course, will hinge on his personal political calculus and—given the high stakes—he will need to bide his time. Because of the large number of variables involved, McCain’s personality profile cannot serve as sufficient grounds for predicting an independent run for president; it merely suggests that the possibility cannot be discounted. What McCain’s personality profile does reliably predict, however, is that the competitive McCain will not seek the number-two position on the Bush ticket. Indeed, it is difficult to contemplate a set of circumstances under which the dauntless, proud McCain would be to the son what Dan Quayle was to the father.

    Forthcoming: The prospects for a McCain-Ventura ticket.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 17, 2000

    Analysis of Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Dr. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll ("The O’Reilly Factor," Fox News Channel, March 14, 2000).

    What is fascinating about this interview (read excerpts) is that, in trying to come to grips with the underlying significance of the latest Gallup poll numbers, Bill O’Reilly consistently attempts to zero in on the issues – first the economy, foreign affairs, health, and education; later campaign finance reform; and finally the environment and abortion. And time and again Dr. Newport downplays the significance of the issues and returns to matters of character and personality.

    From the perspective of political psychology, the essence of Dr. Newport’s interpretation of the poll results is that the 2000 presidential election will hinge not on issues, but on the person – specifically, charisma and public perception of moral character and integrity.

    This is consistent with our assertion on March 9, 2000 in this Tipsheet.

    More importantly, this prospect brings us face to face with a curious dilemma in the public psychology of the democratic process. A point that is often poorly understood among voters is that character is not about the polished veneer of pleasant sociability and idealistic concern that comes so easily to accomplished politicians. Character, fundamentally, is about deeply etched, ingrained personality traits, and its essence can be uncovered by systematic scrutiny of a candidate’s life history and empirical analysis of biographical data in the public record. This, essentially, is the mission of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics.

    Studies of personality and leadership (see "The risks of relying on charisma" and "The dark side of charisma") suggest that charisma is inversely related to moral character and integrity – qualities the Dr. Newport casually lumps together in his assertion that "what we saw from John McCain is that a candidate that has charisma and a positive sense of moral character and integrity can do very well with the public."

    The implication is that our superficial evaluation of character – witness Bill Clinton’s electoral success in 1992 and 1996 despite common knowledge of his personal flaws—portends the paradox that the 2000 presidential election will perpetuate the very concerns that prompted the preeminence personality in popular perceptions of politicians.

    Analysis of Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Dick Morris, Fox News analyst and former Clinton adviser, ("The O’Reilly Factor," Fox News Channel, March 14, 2000).

    In this segment of the program (read excerpts), Dick Morris echoed Dr. Newport’s sentiments that the "Clinton scandals" are not viable campaign issues, stating, "The public does not care." Bill O’Reilly responded that President Clinton’s "scandal-ridden aura has attached itself to Gore, which is why he’s so far down."

    Gore, in fact, is not far down in the polls, which raises the question of O’Reilly’s objectivity; indeed Gore’s numbers have improved considerably relative to Bush’s in recent months – from a 24-point deficit last November to just 6 points this week, according to poll results cited by Bill O’Reilly and Dick Morris in this program.

    Later, when O’Reilly asked Morris how he would advise George W. Bush with respect to the presidential race against Gore, Morris responded, "My advice to Bush would be, 'Do not mix it up with Gore. Don’t get in there in a slug-for-slug fest. This guy’s stronger than you. . . . He’s better at it than you are, and he’ll have you for breakfast. And if you get into a toe-to-toe slugging match with him, you’re going to lose. Rise above him. . . ."

    O’Reilly responded by noting that in the debates Bush and Gore "are going to have to go head to head," to which Morris responded, "Bush needs a place to stand that’s above Gore to be able to win the debates. . . . If he goes in at Gore’s level and fights this tactically, he’s going to lose. . . . It’s like telling a boxer, "Don’t get in close with this guy. He’s stronger than you are."

    This is consistent with our assertion on February 16, 2000 in this Tipsheet.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 15, 2000

    COMING UP THIS FRIDAY -- Analysis of Bill O'Reilly's interviews on Fox News Channel with Frank Newport (editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll) and Dick Morris (Fox News analyst and former Clinton adviser).

    COMING UP NEXT WEEK -- An independent candidacy for John McCain?  This is the year for an independent presidential candidate.  If it's not John McCain, a John McCain will have to be invented.   Also: A McCain-Ventura ticket?

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 9, 2000

    Two things about the Gore-Bush race: It's going to be a contest of personalities, not issues; and the polls are going to fluctuate in response to the vagaries of the moment and the passing whims of the electorate. But ultimately, in a two-way Gore-Bush contest, Al Gore cannot win, for reasons that should concern Democrats and Republicans alike. [More about the pervasive influence, on election outcomes, of personality embedded in a particular cultural context at a given sociohistoric moment.]

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 8, 2000

    In assessing the role of Bill Bradley's personality in the collapse of his presidential campaign and the prospects of Gore vs. Bush, the key consideration is this: Bradley and Gore are both introverts, whereas Bush and McCain are extraverts. In the past century we've elected only four introverts, namely Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. Perhaps by coincidence—though it may be interesting to examine underlying cultural trends—Coolidge and Hoover were elected successively, and so were Nixon and Carter (Gerald Ford being an "accidental" president). In view of these observations, Bush and McCain are clearly the favored candidates, irrespective of fluctuating opinion poll numbers.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 7, 2000

    Last night on CNN's "Newsstand," Michael Kramer of the New York Daily News responded as follows to Jeff Greenfield’s question, "What’s the case that Bradley could have made that second-guessers are now saying, if only he said that he could have really made a race out of it?"

    Kramer: "Well, I think he had to try to go more negative, unfortunately. He began to have Gore on the ropes a few times during the campaign in some of the debates and then he inexplicably backed off, doing a rope-a-dope. I think if you’re in for, you know, a dime, you’re in for a dollar, and he had to pound really hard and I think . . . in part it was just Bradley’s personality, an unfortunate mix that just didn’t fit the times. He’s too cerebral, too detached, too unwilling to do what it takes to mix it up in the rough and tumble that’s required in order to be elected president."

    Later, on ABC’s "Nightline," Jackie Judd reported, "Even though Bradley tried to tap into America’s idealism, critics say his cerebral, aloof style left voters uninspired. He once seemed to acknowledge how ill-suited his personality may have been for a modern presidential campaign."

    In both analyses, personality played a critical role. In our study (see abstract) Bradley emerged as an accommodating, conscientious, introverted personality. Accommodating personalities are nonconfrontational, conciliatory, and sometimes convey an appearance of weakness. Conscientious personalities are serious-minded and, if introverted, appear "cerebral" and aloof. Clearly, the analyses of Kramer and Judd are fully consistent with our assessment of Bill Bradley’s personality-based limitations as a campaigner (see executive summary). In short, conscientious introverts such as Bradley have deficient skills in the domain of mobilization, which makes it difficult for them to arouse, engage, and direct the public.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 5, 2000

    What drives the McCain political machine? Two words: "Vietnam" and "personality." American voters are already familiar with McCain’s compelling life story as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, as related in his 1999 autobiography, "Faith of My Fathers." But if wartime heroics and sacrifice were the cardinal qualification for president of the United States, McCain would be merely one among many viable contenders -- among them Nebraska senator Bob Kerrey, a Navy SEAL who sacrificed a limb in service to his country and earned America’s highest military decoration, the Congressional Medal of Honor. More substantially, in the postwar era Vietnam was the seminal event in the American people’s eroding trust in government, catalyzed by the corrosive drip-drip-drip of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Zippergate. Enter the ascendancy of the insurgent influence of personality in politics.

rball.gif (335 bytes) March 3, 2000

    Last night media analyst Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, told Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, "The main problem [with Sen. John McCain's 'Straight Talk Express'] is with the journalists who are in it. . . . I think that Ted Koppel was right when he said, . . . 'are you so close, are we so supportive, do we like this guy so much that we're artificially breathing life into his campaign?'" Later in the interview Cohen added that "there's been not even a pretense of objectivity and neutrality" with some writers. (Click here to read a transcript of this segment of "The O'Reilly Factor," Thursday, March 2, 2000). Cohen's analysis is consistent with the concern expressed in this forum on February 27, with reference to the independence and objectivity of the press.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 27, 2000

    Chances are, most reporters covering the McCain campaign have not taken a course in group dynamics. But it’s a fair bet they are familiar with the case of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army—a classic case of group dynamics in action. As for the McCain campaign, something that may interest riders on the "Straight Talk Express" – and if it doesn’t, it should—is that people with John McCain’s personality profile almost invariably are finely attuned to the subtleties of human interaction, keenly aware of the moods and feelings of others, and skilled at manipulating others’ thoughts and feelings. In particular, these personalities are adept at using others’ foibles and sensitivities to exploit them for their own purposes. This is not to suggest a character flaw on the part of Sen. McCain (after all, the personality skills in question are what successful retail politics is all about); at issue here is the independence and objectivity of the press, in the context of the influence that mass media exert on the public’s perception of presidential candidates.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 20, 2000

    John McCain’s bitter "concession" speech last night following his defeat in the South Carolina Republican primary was remarkable for its bristling undertone and McCain’s defiance, which occasionally showed through in nonverbal leakage. This irritability is indicative of the dominant, controlling aspect of McCain’s personality, a tendency that is stronger in McCain than in any of the major presidential candidates (Pat Buchanan and Al Gore being his closest rivals). According to personality theorist Theodore Millon, with respect to characteristic mood and temperament these personalities have an excitable temper, are quick to anger when obstructed, and react to personal criticism with anger or rage. Nonetheless, it should be noted that studies conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality and Politics show that this tendency plays a less central role in McCain’s overall personality configuration than is the case for New York Senate candidates Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. However, in the case of McCain, this tendency is reinforced by his dauntless personality style, which is stronger in McCain than any of the presidential candidates. (In this regard McCain is trumped only by Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura.)

    The mood of dauntless personalities characteristically turns irritable and aggressive when they are thwarted or obstructed – whether by people or by rules and regulations. Finally, it should be noted that narcissistic personalities, according to Millon, are temperamentally buoyant and optimistic, except when their narcissistic confidence is shaken, at which time either rage, shame, or emptiness is briefly displayed. Although some if this seemed evident in McCain’s concession speech—in which he occasionally stumbled over his words, even though reading from a prepared text—our studies do not indicate a strong narcissistic tendency (with its attendant sense of entitlement) in the case of McCain. Bush ran a negative, win-at-any-cost campaign, and McCain had sufficient reason to be devastated after his sweep in New Hampshire and the subsequent bounce in his poll numbers and adulation by the media, with his face on the cover of all three of the major weekly news magazines. As for Bush, he may have won South Carolina but risks drawing an intensity of fire against which his personality skills may provide inadequate cover.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 19, 2000

    As reported in our July 1999 research paper on "The Political Personality of Texas Governor George W. Bush" (see abstract) Bush’s major personality strengths with reference to his presidential campaign "are the important political skills of charisma and interpersonality, which will enable him to connect with people and retain a following and his self-confidence in the face of adversity." As noted in the report, these leaders are noted for the high degree of skill with which they are able to engage their outgoing talents of energizing and motivating others. Considering that Bush and McCain were in a statistical dead heat on the eve of South Carolina’s Republican primary, these traits are borne out in Bush’s comfortable election victory in South Carolina following his setback in New Hampshire.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 18, 2000

    When pressed by MSNBC’s Brian Williams, George W. Bush did not seem well informed about the details of John McCain’s captivity in North Vietnamese. While this may be a political ploy, the apparent superficiality of Bush’s knowledge would be consistent with his outgoing personality pattern. Leaders with this personality type, more than other types, tend to use the coping mechanism of avoidance, a mild form of dissociation in which they avoid reflecting on unpleasant thoughts and emotions – the unpalatable reality in this case being McCain’s unpleasant life story. In addition, these personality types tend not to be highly deliberative individuals who are deep thinkers or serious readers. (Reading is more commonly employed for the purpose of amusement or diversion.) Though it seems inconceivable, perhaps Bush really had not read McCain’s biography or briefings prepared by his aides.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 16, 2000

    George W. Bush is predominantly an outgoing personality. These personalities tend to be sociable and charming, even conflict-averse if not quite conciliatory – characteristics partially motivated by a need for validation. As noted by personality theorist Theodore Millon, outgoing personalities "have confidence in their social abilities, feel they can readily influence and charm others, and possess a personal style that makes people like them." Although they have "intense and shifting moods" these personality types are not confrontational or combative, and tend not to hold grudges. In short, they are not brawlers.

    George W. Bush, while some describe him as "cocky," is not a naturally pugnacious fighter like a Pat Buchanan, a Rudy Giuliani, or even a John McCain. For Gov. Bush to run a successful campaign he would be well advised to draw on his personality strengths—presenting a charming public image and setting an idealistic, even compassionate tone. An appropriate metaphor for excessive aggression and combativeness on the part of Bush is an ill-fitting suit. The reality of politics today is that candidates are often constrained to respond to an opponent’s negative attacks. Gov. Bush would do well to avoid situations where he is compelled to counterattack. To some degree, this suggests the need to refrain from conduct that will make him the target of such attacks.

rball.gif (335 bytes) February 6, 2000

    On CNN’s "Late Edition" today, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider told Wolf Blitzer that among the reasons that the straight-talking Sen. John McCain was doing well in the polls, was that McCain was the "anti-Clinton." Former RNC chairman Haley Barbour later objected to this characterization, and correctly so, in our opinion. During the "Late Edition" roundtable discussion, U.S. News & World Report’s Steve Roberts continued the "anti-Clinton" line by asserting, "He [McCain] may be the ‘un-Clinton’ in terms of his persona."

    On the contrary, our empirical analysis indicates that, at least in terms of character and personality, Vice President Al Gore is the real "anti-Clinton" – if, indeed, such a thing exists. As far as Sen. McCain is concerned, his personality is, in fact, somewhat similar to that of President Clinton; they are both outgoing, extraverted personalities. Of all the major presidential candidates, only Gov. George W. Bush’s personality is closer than Sen. McCain’s to that of President Clinton.

Political Leaders and Candidates Studied at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

Bill Bradley Hillary Rodham Clinton Al Gore
Pat Buchanan Elizabeth Dole  John McCain
George W. Bush Steve Forbes Jesse Ventura
Bill Clinton Rudy Giuliani  

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