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How power transforms the presidential brain. (2012)

“Power changes people. After four years in office, Obama is less empathetic. Romney lacks empathy even now, even before the immense power of presidential office takes its hold, if he wins, on his brain.


Professor Ian Robertson, holder of the Chair in Psychology at Trinity College Dublin
Irish Times, 27 October 2012.

Every Tuesday Barack Obama is given a set of CVs with photographs. From this list he personally authorises which of these individuals will be targeted that week by remote predator drones. The first strike he ordered happened three days after he took office and he was reportedly extremely upset when a number of children were killed inadvertently in this attack.

Three years later, at the 2012 Washington White House correspondents’ association dinner, the president continued his now famous series of light-hearted singing and jokey press outings with a warning to the Jonas Brothers band about his daughters: “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don’t be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?”

The tasteless joke about the predator drones – imagine the same joke being made about a Texas execution – was in line with the sort of decline in empathy that even small amounts of power can cause. This is not to say that Obama would have triggered nuclear war in the way many of Kennedy’s advisers would have …..

Nor do I think that Mitt Romney, like Obama a patently intelligent man, would necessarily lack judgment in such a situation. But what does worry me about Romney is the degree to which he seems to lack empathy even before the immense power of presidential office takes its hold, if he wins, on his brain.

Read the full article here: How power transforms the presidential brain


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