Serious Business

Joe Arpaio is a psychopath.

Arpaio is considering running for governor of Arizona. He'll announce his decision March 27.

If he runs, he's the front-runner. Recent polls show voters view him more favorably than any other candidate. His name recognition is at 94 percent, 10 percent higher than the leading Democrat, Janet Napolitano, and 32 percent higher than his top Republican opponent, Matt Salmon.

Arpaio is popular because the Arizona media have failed profoundly at explaining that he's a psychopath. The media find him amusing.

I find him amusing, too, and very likable. He is so affable, in fact, he lulls you into forgetting his nine years of mismanagement, torture, secrecy and lying as Maricopa County Sheriff.

Arpaio will become governor only if the Arizona media continue to downplay his real record as sheriff, a record that, when looked at seriously, could only be built by a man without conscience.

I believe he will only announce his candidacy if he believes the media will go soft on this record.

Joe, for the record, I will pound on you. And I'll do my best to persuade other journalists to pound on you. No jokes, just facts; and facts say you're a psychopath who shouldn't be in any public office, let alone the office of governor.

Arpaio would destroy the Arizona state government as he has the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Arpaio would become the laughingstock of the nation, a new gubernatorial freak show that would make Jesse Ventura's Minnesota look as sober and distinguished as the House of Lords.

Arpaio would needlessly alienate the Legislature as he did the county Board of Supervisors and, in doing so, bring retaliatory budget cuts down on state government. Then he would grossly mismanage the depleted funds he received, as he did driving the sheriff's office to its $2 million shortfall. I believe he wouldn't care one bit as long as he had the cameras running on him.

Egomania is one of the lesser foibles of a psychopath.

A greater foible is an absolute disregard for human rights.

If you think the psychopath label is hyperbole, consider the chief criteria used by Dr. Robert Hare, the leading national expert on mental disorders, in evaluating prison populations to identify psychopaths.

Dr. Hare provides an effective framework for discussing both Arpaio's record and his fitness for office. In his book Without Conscience, he provides six key emotional traits in "The Psychopathy Checklist."

Glib and Superficial

"Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves well and are often very likable and charming."

Arpaio has lied repeatedly about his record, particularly with the DEA, claiming, for example, that he was in "daily gun battles," that he had "broken up" the drug ring in the famous "French Connection" case and that he once arrested Elvis Presley (balderdash, according to Presley historians). He lied when he said he spent two nights in Tent City without protection. He actually had his SWAT team hidden among inmates, a scheme that cost thousands and pulled the team from critical work.

On more serious issues, he lies about the cost of inmate meals, he lies about the cost of his self-promotion schemes, he lies about the success of his programs and he lied about how much he spent giving perks to sycophants while the department languished in a budget crisis.

He has lied as he has promised openness and public accountability at the same time he has relentlessly blocked journalists and attorneys from public records detailing his department's finances and abuses of inmates or whistle-blowing staffers.

There is no other living Arizona political figure with such a documented history of lying.

Top political figures don't hate him because he's popular, as he claims; they hate him because he's so clearly a fraud.

Egocentric and Grandiose

"Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules."

Read his biography, read past stories, listen to him talk when he meanders beyond sound bites.

As he positions himself for a gubernatorial run, Arpaio has become slightly more savvy in couching his egomania in terms of "what the people want."

"I'm only tired if the people are tired of me," he told me late last year. "I do it all for them."

Less than a minute later, he said:

"There's no way these other people can pull the kind of press I get. Look, Ventura doesn't even have a bobblehead. He's got some toy or some bullshit. I've got a bobblehead."

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Robert Nelson