Under the Psychoscope and Socioscope

Two of History’s Bloodiest War Lords, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama

Snapshot: What They Have Done

  • Authorized secret wars in nearly 3/4th of the planet
  • Destroyed cities and villages
  • Sent millions to their graves
  • Bombed weddings and funeral
  • Replaced popular leaders with dictators as US pawns
  • Created countless enemies and potential terrorists
  • Squandered trillions for war instead of building a new America

Why? Why? Why?

People, including presidents, do what they do because of their PMU (psychological makeup), GMU (genetic and gender makeup) and also because of their SMU (situations or circumstances they create and/or face).

What the Psychoscope Shows Us

Their DNA

Some research suggests that a particular gene is more likely to be found among leaders than followers and that a person’s genetic makeup may to some extent predispose the person to a life of crime.

Their Gender

Do you know of any female U.S. president? Wars throughout history have been started and fought by males with very few exceptions (Cleopatra and Margaret Thatcher, for example). While testosterone may play a tiny role in a male leader’s aggression, we live in a male dominated society, which means among other things, that males are expected to dominate and to be aggressive when confronted with conflicts.

Their Background

Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a member of a dynasty with a sense of entitlement that sometimes surfaced on the wrong side of the law and with impunity. ((Parry, R. Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. The Media Consortium, 2004.)) His father, George Walker Bush, before becoming the first U.S. president in the Bush family, had been a director of the CIA.

Obama’s parents were allegedly on the CIA payroll and that agency reportedly “financed his college education and gave him his first job afterwards.” ((Ross, S. “Obama’s Ties to CIA May Explain His Totalitarian Views”. Veterans Today, May 3, 2013.)) Is he indebted to the CIA?

Their Personalities

Knowing a person’s personality tells us a lot about that individual.  One’s personality is a composite of numerous characteristics. Our psychoscope reveals the following for Bush and Obama.


We know they are ambitious. Anyone is who climbs up to the Oval Office.

Morally Unprincipled?

Anyone who starts a war against another nation on a pretext or who orders drone strikes is morally unprincipled and will do whatever is necessary to achieve desired ends.  Bush, a born-again Christian, would naturally disagree. So would Obama. Let’s hear what the latter himself has said about his own moral character: “…I think I’m pretty good at keeping my moral compass while recognizing that I am a product of original sin.” ((Remnick, D, “Going the Distance: On and Off the Road with Barack Obama”. The New Yorker, January 27, 2014, 41-61, 61.)) The subordinating clause of that statement is a perfect example of a moral rationalization as in, “well, we all sin in our own ways.”  And again in his own words:  “One of the things that I’ve learned to appreciate more as President is you are essentially a relay swimmer in a river full of rapids, and that river is history.” ((Ibid. 61)) In other words, you can blame what he’s doing on history. And he’s partly right.

To the extent that any war/spy commander in chief has any hint of morality it is compartmentalized, a form of moral rationalization and a habit typical of most humans. Certain mental compartments are reserved for scruples and others for behavior ranging from the less scrupulous to evil. I will give you one example from Obama’s repertoire of behavior. A few days after he had eulogized Dr. Martin Luther King, the antiwar activist when alive, the president announced he would be doing some more bombing. ((Sirota, D. “What Happened to the Anti-War Movement?” Nation of Change, September 6, 2013))


What national leader isn’t narcissistic? An extreme form of narcissism is a sense of grandiosity, as President Obama seems to display in this remark; “Here’s my bottom line, America must always lead on the stage. If we don’t, no one else will.” ((Blum, W. “What Would a Psychiatrist Call This? Delusions of Grandeur?” The Anti-Empire Report #130. Dissident Voice, July 12, 2014.)) Another extreme form is a lack of empathy.  Have you ever seen the two of them express empathy or remorse over innocent people killed by their military decisions?

Hubris is another element of this personality trait. It was displayed by President Bush standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier and boasting “mission accomplished;” and in this boastful remark; “The interesting thing about being president is that you don’t feel like [you] owe anybody an explanation.” ((Nader, R. Letter to George W. Bush, The Nader Page, January 2, 2014.))


It would not be unusual if Bush and Obama were psychopathic. Apparently it is “normal” if we can believe the findings from a study that relied on some 100 historical experts’ analyses of data on all U.S. presidents. The researchers say they found this personality trait in every U.S. president. ((Howard, J. “Psychopathic Personality Traits Linked With U.S. Presidential Success, Psychologists Suggest”. The Huffington Post, September 13, 2012.)) Noted psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank seems to have found it also when analyzing the backgrounds and behavior of Bush and Obama. ((Frank, J. Bush on the Couch. Harper Perennial, 2005. Obama on the Couch. Free Press, 2012.))


Ron Suskind was the senior national-affairs reporter for The Wall Street Journal from 1993 to 2000 and the author of a book and articles about Bush. Mr. Suskind writes that when asked by his top deputies to explain his decisions “the president would say that he relied on his ‘gut’ or his ‘instinct’ to guide the ship of state, and then he ‘prayed over it.’” ((Suskind, R. Faith, “Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush”. The New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004; and, Suskind, R. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill. Simon & Schuster, 2004.)) Anyone believing their decisions is guided by the supernatural are not likely to open their mind to alternative decisions.As for President Obama, he once told a reporter; “And every morning and every night I’m taking measure of my actions against the options and possibilities available to me—.” ((Remnick. Op. Cit., 61.)) Now that statement suggests he’s open-minded, but he certainly has been close minded about ending the drone strikes and reaching out to the world with an olive branch.


Firmly held beliefs are like ideologies that have hardened into certainties. A pronounced belief of every American president is that of manifest destiny, the belief, no, the certainty that America is destined to be the leader of the world. The neoconservatives and neoliberals of today that bend the ears of our presidents are living examples of this ideology in action. The invasion of Iraq, for example, was planned long before 9/11 by influential neoconservative ideologues with connections to the White House. ((There are many accounts of how 9/11 was a golden opportunity for Bush and gang, including his neoconservative tutors, to carry out a plan years in the making to invade Iraq. See, e.g., Battle, J. The Iraq War-Part I: The U.S. Prepares for Conflict, The National Security Archive, 2001; Beversdorf, T. The Most Essential Lesson of History That No One Wants to Admit. First Rebuttal, December 7, 2014; and Weber, M. Iraq: A War For Israel. Institute for Historical Review, March, 2008.))

Selfish Purpose?

Purpose, along with intentions and expectations, are an extremely strong influence on human behavior. They help motivate and guide it. Warring and spying by virtue of their enormity of scale, need both self and publicly proclaimed purposes.

Under the Socioscope: The Badvantages of Bush and Obama

Let’s complete the explanation of their behavior by putting them under the socioscope to find their badvantages, my term for circumstances and situations that give bad behavior an advantage.

Seductive Positions

History is replete with leaders seduced by the powerful positions they held. Power is readily available to be exploited and abused.

Big Organizations

The bigger the organization the more there is power available to its people in seductive positions. What is bigger than the US government and supersized corporations?

Tall Organizations

Large organizations like governments and corporations are hierarchies with “pecking orders.” People at and near the top do the ordering and people below follow them. The hierarchy is a perfect place to order wrongdoing to be done and then to blame it on people at the lower levels.

Organizational and Social Culture

Any U.S. president, like most people whether plebeians or potentates, operates within both an organizational and social culture and is influenced by it to varying degrees in varying situations.

As an illustration consider first President Obama’s organizational culture and zero in on its most potent element, namely, his “shadow government” made up primarily of the CIA, the NSA, and the military.  His shadow government influences, if not sometimes predetermines, his decisions if we can believe the authenticity of reports from various sources. For instance, the reason why Obama blocked criminal persecutions of officials in the previous administration according to various sources is that he was worried that “the CIA, NSA and military would revolt” and he reminded his confidants of “what had happened to Martin Luther King,” an implicit allusion to the alleged  assassination arranged by the CIA. ((Swanson, D. “Mark Udall and the Unspeakable“. Dissident Voice, November 22, 2014.)) If Obama did not also mention the assassination of President Kennedy under similar circumstances.  It was probably too discomforting for him to have done so.

Now let’s turn for a moment to Obama’s much larger context, the culture of the society in which he lives. It is perfectly suited for his position and its shadowy government for it is a sociopathic culture that not only accepts but expects endless warring and spying. ((Derber, C. Sociopathic Society: A People’s Sociology of the United States. Paradigm Publishers, 2013. See also, Lewis, AR. The American Culture of War: A History of US Military Force from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom. Routledge, 2012.)) This second culture is a creature of the first but they feed off each other.

Upside- Down Incentives

U.S. presidents and corporate CEOs are addicted to them. An upside down incentive, as you can probably guess, is one that rewards bad behavior and/or punishes good behavior. The most egregious upside down incentive is the case of U.S. warriors-in-chief and their regimes never having to worry about being prosecuted as war criminals by the International Criminal Court to which the U.S. deliberately did not join.

Best or Worst of Times

The best of times, which stokes greed, tends to bring out the worst in human nature just as the worst of times, which stokes need, tends to do the same. Making sure America has enemies is a very potent badvantage for a U.S. president. Think about it for a moment. The U.S. is thousands of miles across water and land from her enemies that wouldn’t be America’s enemies if America stayed at home. But when has her imperialistic regimes ever stayed at home?

Global Enticements

Globalization is the contemporary euphemism for imperialism or “global gobbling.” The globe is one giant opportunity for market expansion, resource exploitation and political manipulation by the more powerful nations, which helps explain why U.S. regimes try to be the most powerful of all. The prospect of installing or protecting dictatorships to protect U.S. corporate investments on foreign soil in the pretext of spreading and defending freedom is just too much of a temptation for CEOs and U.S. presidents alike to resist.

The Powerful Corpocracy and Its Allies

America’s corpocracy, the “Devil’s Marriage” between big government and big business, along with the duo’s allies (e.g., mainstream media) are a gigantic, endless badvantage for all people in and associated with the corpocracy and its corporate driven political and economic systems, not just with the corpocracy’s warring and spying component. ((Brumback, G.B. The Devil’s Marriage: The Devil’s Marriage: Break Up the Corpocracy or Leave Democracy in the Lurch, Bloomington, IN: Author House, 2011.)) They all feed off one another at the expense of the public. Large corporations, including those in the defense and intelligence industries, expect and get countless favors and the subservient government’s politicians provide them in exchange for public office. It is truly a Devil’s Marriage.

There you have it, eight badvantages, and there’s absolutely no doubt that every one of them has tempted or pressured not only Presidents Bush and Obama but also their predecessors. The badvantages help explain and influence but do not exonerate their negative leadership (i.e., bad behavior and bad results for the common people). Leaders, like everyone else, despite the badvantages, are responsible for their own behavior and its consequences; that they never are held accountable can be blamed on the badvantages.

Closing Remarks and a Confession

Given their PMUs, GMUs and badvantages is it any wonder that Bush and Obama do what they do? But understanding why, obviously should not excuse them.

If you knew my past, you might wonder: Why I accepted a graduate school research position funded by an Air Force Grant; taught an introductory Psychology course at an Air Force base; worked for a year for a defense contractor right after graduate school; while with a non-profit research firm wrote a research proposal to the DOD; applied for a management position at DOD; and did not openly protest the Vietnam War while working for the US government?

The answers can be found through my own psychoscope and socioscope. The short answer is that my convictions were slow to mature and my courage failed them. I have since been trying to make amends.

Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Read other articles by Gary.