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Jan 28th, 2020


How will President Trump respond to Iranian retaliation for the killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani?

The two guiding principles of behavioral forecasting based on psychological profiling are:

  1. Personality directs — and therefore predicts — behavior.
  2. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Based on (1) empirical studies of Donald Trump’s personality profile and leadership style conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics and (2) rational-intuitive inference derived from President Trump’s observed behavior in office, the following general expectancies present themselves with reference to Trump’s likely response to Iran’s anticipated retaliation for the targeted killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani.

Key personality traits driving President Trump’s behavior

Donald Trump is bold, self-assured, and levelheaded under pressure and in the face of adversity; is a dramatic attention‑getter more inclined to precipitous action than to indecision; enjoys the power to take charge, evoke respect, and seeing that the job gets done; is tough, competitive, and unsentimental; and is willing to flout tradition, acting autonomously in accordance with his personal goals and preferences.

Relevant indicators from President Trump’s past behavior

Donald Trump prides himself on “promises made, promises kept” and completing projects on- or ahead of schedule; is motivated to extricate the United States from “endless wars”; is driven to project military power to buttress U.S. prestige and national security; and is generally explicit in stating his intent.

General expectancies for President Trump’s response to Iranian reprisal

  • President Trump is highly unlikely to order a full-scale war such as George H.W. Bush’s Gulf War (1991) or George W. Bush’s invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003).
  • President Trump is unlikely to escalate the current standoff with Iran in the absence of revenge operations by the Iranian regime or its proxies.
  • President Trump is likely to respond proportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States, provided no U.S. nationals are harmed (but may incrementally escalate counterattacks if revenge attacks persist).
  • President Trump is likely to respond disproportionately to Iranian retaliation outside the United States if U.S. nationals are killed or injured.
  • President Trump is likely to respond with overwhelming force to attacks by Iran or its proxies within the United States or its territories.

———————————————

Update: January 9, 2020

Trump backs away from further military conflict with Iran (Peter Baker, New York Times, Jan. 8, 2020) — President Trump backed away from further military action against Iran and called for renewed diplomacy on Wednesday as the bristling confrontation of the past six days eased in the aftermath of an Iranian missile strike that seemed intended to save face rather than inflict casualties. … The president’s statement came hours after Iran’s government indicated that it had “concluded proportionate measures” avenging the killing of the commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with the launch of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases housing American troops. The missiles did not result in any American or Iraqi deaths, an outcome interpreted by some analysts as a deliberate attempt by Iran to claim it had responded, but without provoking Mr. Trump. …



On December 14 the New York Times reported:

A second test [at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station] of what appeared to be an advanced missile engine, part of what North Korea said on Saturday was part of a “reliable strategic nuclear deterrent,” left little doubt that the country is moving quickly toward resuming the program that led to a crisis with Washington two years ago. … It was the second such test in a week, and came after weeks of increasingly vocal attempts to press the United States into further talks and new concessions. … American analysts and intelligence experts said they believe the ground test … was intended as a signal that the country could soon resume testing of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Analysts have speculated an ICBM test might occur after the end of December, a deadline Kim Jong-un imposed for the U.S. to resume negotiations and provide sanctions relief.

In its report, the New York Times quotes Pak Jong-chon, chief of the general staff of the North Korean People’s Army, as saying: “We should be ready to cope with political and military provocations of the hostile forces, and be familiar with both dialogue and confrontation” and that the U.S. and its allies would “spend the year-end in peace only when they hold off any words and deeds rattling us” — signaling that amid stalled diplomacy “the voice of North Korea’s hard-line military was rising,” according to Cheong Seong-chang, vice president of research planning at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

In conjunction with the North Korean foreign ministry’s veiled threat in early December that North Korea was preparing a surprise “Christmas gift” for the United States, the latest rhetoric emanating from the DPRK sounds ominous.

Left: Image of King Tongmyong from a North Korean book. Right: Image of Kim Jong-un, courtesy of KCNA. (Photo composite by Jean Lee / The Wilson Center)

 

Analysis: How should the U.S. respond?

  1. In planning its response, the U.S. should exercise caution in ascertaining the personal policy preferences of Kim Jong-un and distinguishing between that and the intent of hardliners in the DPRK military establishment.
  2. To the extent that Kim is losing ground in his grip on power vis-à-vis the top military leadership, the U.S. could strengthen Kim’s hand by giving due consideration to the resumption of personal diplomacy between the two nations’ leaders as a complement to the continuation of working-level talks.
  3. It would be prudent to delay any significant response or intervention until after evaluating the tone, and learning more about the details, of Kim’s policy options in his annual New Year’s Day speech.
  4. In the context of the central role of personal diplomacy in the US-DPRK nuclear negotiations, consider that with the specter of impeachment and the uncertainty of Donald Trump’s reelection as president, Kim might be reluctant to strike a deal at the present juncture, preferring to adopt a wait-and-see attitude; thus, it would be prudent to exercise patience and avoid any abrupt policy reversals.

 


Related media reports

North Korea promises a Christmas surprise. Here are the options
(Geoff Brumfiel, NPR, Dec. 23, 2019)


Experts worry that North Korea may be about to test an advanced solid-fuel missile. (Photo: Wong Maye-E / AP via NPR)

U.S. on high alert for possible ‘Christmas gift’ missile from North Korea
(Bradford Betz, Fox News, Dec. 23, 2019)

What is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s ‘Christmas gift’ for Donald Trump? (Erin Handley, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dec. 24, 2019)


Related research reports

The Leadership Style of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., June 10, 2018. Abstract and link for full-text (17 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/120/

Titles_KJU

The Personality Profile of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minn., April 1, 2018. Abstract and link for full-text (32 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: https://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/119/


Related links on this site

The Leadership Style of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un (June 12, 2018)


Photo credit: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

North Korea Threat Assessment: The Psychological Profile of Kim Jong-un (April 8, 2013)


Click on image for larger view


Related interest

Kim Jong-un’s 2019 New Year’s Message


Oct 27th, 2019

President Trump: ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is Dead

By Maegan Vazquez, Zachary Cohen, and Kevin Liptak

October 27, 2019

Excerpts

President Donald Trump declared Sunday morning that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead after a US military raid in northwest Syria over the weekend. …

The President said a US special operations forces mission went after the ISIS leader and there were no US deaths during the operation. …

The death of al-Baghdadi marks the culmination of a years-long hunt to find one of the most wanted terrorists in the world and the man who declared a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. …

Trump said al-Baghdadi was chased to the end of a dead-end tunnel by dogs, taking three children with him. At the end of the tunnel, he detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and the children. …

“He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place,” Trump said. …

Trump told reporters al-Baghdadi was under surveillance for a couple of weeks and that two to three planned missions were scrapped before the successful one was launched. …

[Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning that the President approved the raid “late last week” after being presented with different options. …

Esper described the death of the ISIS leader as a “devastating blow” to ISIS. “This is not just their leader, it’s their founder. He was an inspirational leader in many ways,” Esper told Tapper. …

Full story


The Psychology of Terrorists (Pt. 2): The Messiah Complex

How might the personalities of bin Laden and al-Baghdadi be similar?

By Stephen A. Diamond, PhD
Psychology Today
September 26, 2014

Excerpts

What motivates terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed head of ISIS? … [L]ike bin Laden, al-Baghdadi seems to exhibit some sort of messiah complex. He reportedly sees himself as the successor to Muhammed, the founder of Islam. To understand better the psychology of someone like al-Baghdadi, about whom very little personal information is currently available, we might do well to look at what we knew and thought we knew about his late predecessor, Osama bin Laden. Here is a previous piece posted on the day the death of bin Laden was announced to the world by President Obama back in 2011:

Obviously, analyzing or profiling the personality of such a shadowy, enigmatic and elusive figure as Osama bin Laden is a difficult task. Nevertheless, in a paper presented at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology in 2002, Dr. Aubrey Immelman, associate professor of psychology at Minnesota’s St. John’s University, did just that.

Plugging bin Laden’s known biographical data into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), Immelman concluded that “Bin Laden’s blend of Ambitious and Dauntless personality patterns suggests the presence of Millon’s ‘unprincipled narcissist’ syndrome. This composite character complex combines the narcissist’s arrogant sense of self-worth, exploitative indifference to the welfare of others, and grandiose expectation of special recognition with the antisocial personality’s self-aggrandizement, deficient social conscience, and disregard for the rights of others.”

Elsewhere, Immelman diagnosed Osama bin Laden — as did psychiatrist Dr. Jerrold Post, the renowned CIA political profiler — a “malignant narcissist”: a term based on psychoanalyst Otto Kernberg’s conception of malignant narcissism, the core components of which are pathological narcissism, antisocial features, paranoid traits, and destructive aggression. …

Yet surprisingly, in the final analysis, Dr. Immelman found that a “major implication of the study is that bin Laden does not fit the profile of the highly conscientious, closed-minded religious fundamentalist, nor that of the religious martyr who combines these qualities with devout, self-sacrificing features; rather, it suggests that bin Laden is adept at exploiting Islamic fundamentalism in the service of his own ambition and personal dreams of glory.”

While I agree that Immelman’s diagnoses of malignant or unprincipled narcissist may be accurate, and that Osama’s behavior, at least at first, was primarily self-serving, I strongly doubt the latter part of his commentary about bin Laden not being a closed-minded religious fundamentalist or devout, self-sacrificing martyr. Indeed, from everything I’ve seen, this is exactly — even archetypally — what Osama seems to have become. A religious and political martyr.

Immelman did, however, mention Dr. Millon’s syndrome of “puritanical compulsiveness.” These individuals, writes Harvard psychologist and noted personality theorist Theodore Millon (1996), are “austere, self-righteous, [and] highly controlled.” Their “intense anger and resentment … is given sanction, at least as they see it, by virtue of their being on the side of righteousness and morality.” This resentment-based syndrome certainly closely resembles bin Laden’s messianic character.

Does al-Baghdadi suffer from some mental disorder? Could the ISIS leader, like the late Osama bin Laden, be best understood as a narcissistic personality disorder? Antisocial personality disorder? Paranoid personality disorder? Delusional psychotic? Some hybrid of each? Or is he, perhaps more crucially in this context, like bin Laden before him,what I would call a fanatically religious cult leader with a major messiah complex? (See Part 3)

————————

Commentary

I have not conducted an empirical at-a-distance- psychological assessment of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; however, based on my informal observations, Baghdadi’s psychological profile resembles Ayman al-Zawahiri (fundamentalist “abrasive negativist”) more closely than Osama Bin Laden (nonfundamentalist “unprincipled narcissist”).


Related reports on this site

Ayman al-Zawahiri Psychological Profile (May 3, 2011)

Full research report

“Bin Laden’s Brain”: The Abrasively Negativistic Personality of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri

Paper presented at the 26th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Boston, July 6–9, 2003

Osama bin Laden Psychological Profile (May 2, 2011)

Full research report

The Personality Profile of al-Qaida Leader Osama bin Laden

Paper presented at the 25th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Berlin, July 16–19, 2002



During the War of 1812, attorney Francis Scott Key witnessed the 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry from a British troopship anchored some four miles away. He had boarded the ship to negotiate the release of an American civilian imprisoned by the British, and had been detained aboard as the bombardment began. On September 14, 1814, as the dawn’s early light revealed the U.S. flag flying over the fort, Key exultantly began scribbling on the back of a letter the initial verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which would become the American national anthem.

Key’s Manuscript

The U.S. National Anthem in a word-by-word visual score performed by OneRepublic.

Interpretation of The Star-Spangled Banner by OneRepublic

O say can you see,
O = tire / say = finger point / can = pop / you = Uncle Sam / see = face
by the dawn’s early light,
dawn = jogger / early = alarm clock / light = bulb
What so proudly we hail’d
proudly = baby / we = family, barn, Jeep / hail’d = cab
at the twilight’s last gleaming,
twilight’s = desert sunset / last = cookie / gleaming = Jeep hood
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
broad = Broadway street sign / stripes = referee / and = & / bright = blinding light / stars = Marilyn Monroe
through the perilous fight
through = snow / perilous = rocks / fight = pillow
O’er the ramparts we watch’d
ramparts = obstacle course / we watch’d = spectators
were so gallantly streaming?
gallantly = astronaut, firefighter / streaming = video
And the rocket’s red glare
rocket’s = boy, space shuttle / red = sneaker, skateboard / glare = reflecting lake
the bombs bursting in air,
bombs bursting = kids touching hands / in air = Jeep parachute airdrop
Gave proof through the night
Gave = father car keys son / proof = driver’s license / through = tunnel / night = Jeep, tent
that our flag was still there,
our flag = views of Old Glory / was = George Washington Bridge / still = barn in winter / there = Iwo Jima
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O = dust circle / say = Scrabble / does = graffiti / that = man / star-spangled = sparks / banner = football Wildcats / wave = driver, surfer
O’er the land of the free
land = desert landscape / free = skydive freefall
and the home of the brave?
home = baseball homerun / brave = law enforcement officers, military veteran



Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Kamala Harris at the first Democratic presidential debate, Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Research conducted at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics under the direction of Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., is projecting the winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

The Personal Electability Index (PEI) developed at the unit projects that none of the seven Democratic contenders assessed by the USPP will be able to defeat Donald Trump.

This election-outcome forecast is at variance with a contemporaneous ABC News/Washington Post poll, conducted June 28-July 1, 2019, that shows Trump losing against or statistically tied with the five Democratic front-runners:

Among all adults …, Joe Biden leads Trump by 14 points. But that narrows among the other four Democrats tested against Trump in this poll – an 8-point lead for Kamala Harris, a slight 7 points for Elizabeth Warren, 6 for Bernie Sanders and 4 for Pete Buttigieg. The latter two don’t reach statistical significance.

Among registered voters, moreover, Biden still leads, by 10 points, but the other races all tighten to virtual or actual dead heats – Trump a non-significant -2 points against Harris, -1 against Sanders and exactly tied with Warren and Buttigieg.

The PEI (derived from Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria scale scores) has accurately predicted, before Super Tuesday, the outcome of every presidential election since 1996.

The PEI heuristic model employs candidate personality traits, as publicly perceived, to predict which contender will resonate most favorably with independent and unaffiliated voters who base their voting choice primarily on the candidate’s personal qualities as publicly displayed rather than on party-political affiliation or allegiance.

The PEI model’s predictive utility in recent presidential election cycles appears to derive from the practically even division of the nation into reliably Republican and Democratic voting blocks, essentially yielding the balance of power to politically independent and unaffiliated voters comprising as much as one-third of the electorate.

Research on the psychology of politics conducted at the USPP reveals that voters respond favorably to candidates who are outgoing (extraverted), self-confident (productively narcissistic), and dominant; and negatively to candidates who are introverted and overly conscientious.

First, extraversion (Scale 3: Outgoing) conveys energy, drive, and charisma; the candidate passes the so-called “beer test.”

Second, self-confident, adaptive narcissism (Scale 2: Ambitious) is publicly perceived as leadership competency; legitimately or not, confidence conveys competence.

Third, social dominance (Scale 1A: Dominant) is publicly perceived as signifying strong leadership; governing requires cooperation and compromise, but campaigns reward fighters.

Fourth, introversion (Scale 8: Retiring) conveys low energy, a lack of drive, and the absence of charisma; the candidate fails the “beer test.”

Fifth, although associated with positive traits such as honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, morality, prudence, and competence, conscientiousness (Scale 6: Conscientious) at elevated levels is negatively perceived as being overly programmed, moralistic, officious, and high-handed, which doesn’t play well in retail politics.

As conceptualized by the PEI forecasting model, candidates studied in the 2020 presidential election cycle rank as follows in terms of predicted political impact as a general election candidate:

Donald Trump

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 65-77 (71 ±6); dysfunctionality adjusted = 45

 

Joe Biden

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5) / Revised Dec. 2019: 22-33 (27.5 ±5.5)

 

Hillary Clinton (Undeclared)

Presidential Electability Index

Score: 27; dysfunctionality adjusted = 12

 

Kamala Harris

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-27 (20 ±7)

 

Bernie Sanders

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

 

Amy Klobuchar

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-23 (18 ±5)

 

Beto O’Rourke

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-23 (17 ±6)

 

Pete Buttigieg

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 10-18 (14 ±4)

 

Elizabeth Warren

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 6-8 (7 ±1)

 

(Scroll down to “Detailed Personal Electability Index scores” for full data analytics)

The Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics’s PEI projection is congruent with the ABC News/Washington Post poll’s finding that, among the Democratic primary front-runners, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris would pose the strongest challenge to Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup.

However, as is evident in the CNN screen shot above, the PEI projection that none of the Democratic presidential candidates will be able to defeat Trump in a general election matchup is incongruent with current polling data. Similarly, a recent Fox News poll showed Trump trailing Democratic frontrunners Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, and Buttigieg.

The PEI projection is also inconsistent with Trump’s own internal polling, which shows him losing states he won in 2016 to Biden if the election were held today, including North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia, and Ohio.

 


Update: Fox News poll shows Trump down by 10 points to Biden (July 27, 2019)

 


Update: Trump maintains advantage in Electoral College (Nov. 4, 2019)

One year from election, Trump trails Biden but leads Warren in battlegrounds (Nate Cohn, The Upshot, New York Times, Nov. 4, 2019) — Despite low national approval ratings and the specter of impeachment, President Trump remains highly competitive in the battleground states likeliest to decide his re-election, according to a set of new surveys from The New York Times Upshot and Siena College. Across the six closest states that went Republican in 2016, he trails Joe Biden by an average of two points among registered voters but stays within the margin of error. Mr. Trump leads Elizabeth Warren by two points among registered voters, the same margin as his win over Hillary Clinton in these states three years ago. … The Times/Siena results and other data suggest that the president’s advantage in the Electoral College relative to the nation as a whole remains intact or has even grown since 2016, raising the possibility that the Republicans could — for the third time in the past six elections — win the presidency while losing the popular vote. …

 


Update: Will Democrats pick the right candidate? (Dec. 25, 2019)

The five questions that will decide 2020 election (Julian Zelizer, CNN, Dec. 25, 2019) — Former Vice President Joe Biden…. has argued to Democrats that … he is the only one who can defeat the president in November. … And so far, he has shown that he has considerable appeal. … Biden’s numbers have remained solid despite all the attacks and smears from the administration. Skeptics … must admit he has done better than expected. … Progressives argue that it’s time for a change. The best bet, they say, is someone who can mobilize and inspire voters. …

Comment

Joe Biden has the highest PEI score among the seven Democratic contenders studied this election cycle, suggesting he is the most viable general election candidate in a matchup against Donald Trump; however, his PEI score predicts he is unlikely to defeat President Trump.

 


 

Update: CNN poll: Bernie Sanders surges to join Biden atop Democratic presidential pack (Jan. 22, 2020)

Sanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed accusing him of a 'big corruption problem'

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has improved his standing in the national Democratic race for president, joining former Vice President Joe Biden in a two-person top tier above the rest of the field, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. …

Overall, 27% of registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents back Sanders, while 24% favor Biden. Both … are significantly ahead of the rest of the field, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 14% and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 11%. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg lands at 5% in the poll, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and businessman Andrew Yang each hold 4% support. Businessman Tom Steyer has 2%. No other candidate reaches 1% support. …

Comment

The CNN poll is consistent with a contemporaneous SurveyUSA poll, which shows Bernie Sanders marginally outperforming Joe Biden in a head-to-head matchup against Donald Trump if the election were held today:

The poll found that 52 percent of voters would choose Sanders and 43 percent Trump, giving the veteran senator a nine-point lead. Next was former vice president Joe Biden at 50 percent to Trump’s 43 percent, a seven-point lead.

Michael Bloomberg, the media and financial data billionaire, also led Trump by seven points at 49 percent to 42 percent. Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Trump 48 percent to 45 percent, a three-point advantage.

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is also ahead of Trump by three points, at 47 percent to 44 percent. The tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is ahead of Trump by two points, at 46 percent to 44 percent.

The billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer is tied with Trump at 44 percent apiece, Democratic Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar loses to Trump by two points at 43 percent to 45 percent.

The CNN and SurveyUSA polls are both at variance with the USPP’s PEI-based election-outcome forecast issued July 8, 2019, which projects Trump will defeat any and all of the seven Democratic contenders studied this election cycle, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar.

 


 

Detailed Personal Electability Index scores

Following are the scores of candidates studied in the 2020 presidential election cycle on the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria-based Personal Electability Index, which has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1996.

Donald Trump: PEI = 65-77 (71 ±6); dysfunctionality adjusted = 45*

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 17 9 24 24 0 0 4 0 0 0
Upper bound: 20 14 30 27 1 0 9 3 0 1
Adjusted: 15 9 15 15 0 0 4 0 0 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 17] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 24] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 17] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = 0] = 65 – 0 = 65

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 27] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 30] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 20] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 77 – 0 = 77

Dysfunctionality adjusted PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = (24 – 9) = 15] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = (24 – 9) = 15] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = (17 – 2) = 15] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = 0] = 45 – 0 = 45

* The dysfunctionality adjusted score limits positive points for scales 1A, 2, and 3 to 15, based on the assumption that scale elevations above 15 may be dysfunctional in some respects. (Note also that the PEI heuristic specifies that negative scores for scale 6 are assigned for scale elevations above 4 only.)

Joe Biden: PEI = 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 3 2 4 9 5 0 1 1 0 0
Upper bound: 6 4 10 13 5 0 1 4 0 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 9] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1 – 1) = 0] = 16 – 0 = 16

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 13] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 10] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 6] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 29 – 0 = 29

Joe Biden (updated Dec. 31, 2019): PEI = 22-33 (27.5 ±5.5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 4 3 5 13 5 0 0 0 0 0
Upper bound: 6 4 11 16 5 0 1 3 0 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 13] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 5] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 4] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (0 – 0) = 0] = 22 – 0 = 22

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 16] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 11] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 6] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 33 – 0 = 33

Hillary Clinton: PEI = 27; dysfunctionality adjusted = 12*

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Score: 21 2 24 0 0 0 3 15 1 7

Scale: 1A = 21; 2 = 24; 3 = 0; 6 = 15; 8 = 7

PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 0] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 24] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 21] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 7] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (15 – 4) = 11] = 45 – 18 = 27

Dysfunctionality adjusted PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 0] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = (24 – 9) = 15] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = (21 – 6) = 15] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 7] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (15 – 4) = 11] = 30 – 18 = 12

Kamala Harris: PEI = 13-27 (20 ±7)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 4 2 4 5 3 1 1 3 0 0
Upper bound: 8 4 6 13 4 1 2 4 1 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 5] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 4] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1-1) = 0] = 13 – 0 = 13

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 13] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 6] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 8] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 27 – 0 = 27

Bernie Sanders: PEI = 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 9 5 5 3 2 0 4 3 0 1
Upper bound: 13 11 9 4 5 1 12 5 0 2

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 3] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 5] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 9] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 17 – 1 = 16

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 9] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 13] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 2] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (5 – 4) = 1] = 26 – 3 = 23

Amy Klobuchar: PEI = 13-23 (18 ±5)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 11 3 7 4 5 0 1 13 0 0
Upper bound: 20 3 11 6 5 0 3 17 0 1

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 7] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 11] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (13 – 4) = 9] = 22 – 9 = 13

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 6] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 11] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 20] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (17 – 4) = 13] = 37 – 14 = 23

Beto O’Rourke: PEI = 11-23 (17 ±6)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 1 5 4 6 5 1 1 1 0 0
Upper bound: 3 13 6 14 7 3 3 2 3 0

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 6] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 1] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (1 – 1) = 0] = 11 – 0 = 11

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 14] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 6] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (2 – 2) = 0] = 23 – 0 = 23

Pete Buttigieg: PEI = 10-18 (14 ±4)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 2 2 4 4 5 1 0 3 2 0
Upper bound: 3 4 9 8 7 2 1 5 4 1

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 2] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 0] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (3 – 3) = 0] = 10 – 0 = 10

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 8] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 9] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 3] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (5 – 4) = 1] = 20 – 2 = 18

Elizabeth Warren: PEI = 11-15 (13 ±2)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 9 2 4 3 1 0 2 4 3 1
Upper bound: 11 3 8 4 4 3 3 12 7 4

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 3] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 9] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 1] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (4 – 4) = 0] = 16 – 1 = 15

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 4] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 8] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 11] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 4] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (12 – 4) = 8] = 23 – 12 = 11

Elizabeth Warren (updated Sept. 25, 2019): PEI = 6-8 (7 ±1)

Scale: 1A 1B 2 3 4 5A 5B 6 7 8
Lower bound: 8 0 4 1 0 1 2 9 2 2
Upper bound: 11 2 6 2 1 1 3 12 4 3

Lower bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 1] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 4] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 8] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 2] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (9 – 4) = 5] = 13 – 7 = 6

Upper bound PEI = [Extraversion (scale 3) = 2] + [Narcissism (scale 2) = 6] + [Dominance (scale 1A) = 11] – [Introversion (scale 8) = 3] – [Conscientiousness (scale 6) = (12 – 4) = 8] = 19 – 11 = 8

 


PEI Scores for Democratic and Republican Nominees, 1996-2016

For historical context, here are the personality-based electability scores for all major-party nominees since 1996, published before Super Tuesday in presidential election years, with the successful candidate listed first:


 

Related report

Projecting the Winner of the 2016 Presidential Election: The Personal Electability Index (Feb. 29, 2016)



CNN’s “The Point with Chris Cillizza” reports:

The entrance of former VP Joe Biden into the 2020 field has altered the race’s dynamics in lots of ways but none more notable than this: Electability is now front and center.

Biden’s entire candidacy is based on the idea that (a) beating Donald Trump is all that matters and (b) he is by far best positioned to do so.

(Recent CNN polling suggests former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is actually the strongest general election candidate against Trump right now. O’Rourke led Trump by 10 while Biden held a 6-point edge in a head-to-head match up with Trump.) …

USPP analysis

In contrast to the above analysis by CNN’s “The Point,” the Unit for the Study of Personality’s Presidential Electability Index (PEI), which has accurately predicted — before Super Tuesday — the outcome of every presidential election since 1996, suggests that Joe Biden will be a stronger candidate than Beto O’Rourke in a general election matchup with Donald Trump.

The PEI heuristic model employs candidate personality traits, as publicly perceived, to predict which contender will resonate most favorably with independent and unaffiliated voters who base their voting choice primarily on a candidate’s personal qualities as publicly displayed rather than on party-political affiliation or allegiance.

Below are the PEI scores for Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Beto O’Rourke, based on studies conducted at the USPP.

Donald Trump

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 37-45

 

Joe Biden

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-29

 

Beto O’Rourke

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-23

 


 

Update: June 27, 2019

With the notable exceptions of Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, a Monmouth University poll of likely 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary voters, conducted May 2-7, 2019, lines up well with ratings of leading Democratic contenders on the Unit for the Study of Personality’s Presidential Electability Index (PEI), which has accurately predicted — before Super Tuesday — the outcome of every presidential election since 1996. (Warren’s PEI score ranks lowest among the seven candidates assessed by USPP investigators, while Buttigieg ranks slightly higher, coming in at sixth.)

Image (truncated) credit: Monmouth University Polling Institute

Below, ranked in descending order of general election electability, are the PEI ratings for the seven Democratic primary contenders studied at the USPP this election cycle, namely, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren.

Joe Biden (Monmouth net favorability: +65)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5)

 

Kamala Harris (Monmouth net favorability: +50)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-27 (20 ±7)

 

Bernie Sanders (Monmouth net favorability: +54)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

 

Amy Klobuchar (Monmouth net favorability: +33)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-23 (18 ±5)

 

Beto O’Rourke (Monmouth net favorability: +29)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-23 (17 ±6)

 

Pete Buttigieg (Monmouth net favorability: +47)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 10-18 (14 ±4)

 

Elizabeth Warren (Monmouth net favorability: +39)

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-15 (13 ±2)

 


 

Update: December 31, 2019

The Political Personality of Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Working paper, Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, St. John’s University/College of St. Benedict, December 2019. Abstract and link for full-text (21 pages; PDF) download at Digital Commons: http://digitalcommons.csbsju.edu/psychology_pubs/122/

 


Related link: 2020 Presidential Candidates



Student Research Collaborators Present Findings at Scholarship Day

Paige Steinberg, Madison Sharp, Skya Jandt, Christian Giminez, and Sarah Lommel present their poster, “The Personality Profile of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)

ST. JOSEPH, Minn. (April 25, 2019) — Psychological profiles of selected Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and of China’s President Xi Jinping, were presented at “Celebrating Scholarship and Creativity Day,” an annual event to recognize students, faculty, and staff who have undertaken significant research, scholarship, or creative works during the current academic year at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.

Undergraduate students in a Personality Psychology course at the colleges conducted their research under the auspices of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics, directed by Aubrey Immelman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology.

Biographical and life history data concerning the the designated political leaders were collected from media reports and synthesized into personality profiles using the third edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with DSM-III-R, DSM-IV, and DSM–5.

 

The Personality Profile of Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

By Sarah Lommel, Madison Sharp, Christian Gimenez, Paige Steinberg, and Skya Jandt


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Joe Biden’s primary personality patterns were found to be Outgoing/congenial and Accommodating/cooperative, complemented by secondary Ambitious/confident and Dominant/asserting features. In summary, Biden may be characterized as a conciliatory extravert.

Presidential Electability Index range: 16-29

Updates » The Personality Profile of Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-29 (22.5 ±6.5)

 
 

The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

By Josie Thelen, Amber Lauer, Lauren Redmond, Kailee Gallagher, and Courtney Conlin

Josie Thelen, Amber Lauer, Courtney Conlin, Lauren Redmond, and Kailee Gallagher present their poster, “The Personality Profile of 2020 U.S. Presidential Contender Kamala Harris,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Kamala Harris’s primary personality patterns were found to be Outgoing/congenial, Dominant/asserting, and Ambitious/confident, complemented by secondary Accommodating/cooperative and Conscientious/respectful features. In summary, Harris may be characterized as a dominant extravert.

Presidential Electability Index range: 13-27

Updates » The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-27 (20 ±7)

 
 

The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar

By Rachel Nelson, Justine Revermann, Madeline Koebnick, Emily Eng, Krystal Her, and Jason Omann

Jason Omann, Rachel Nelson, and Krystal Her present their poster, “The Personality Profile of 2020 U.S. Presidential Contender Amy Klobuchar,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Amy Klobuchar’s primary personality patterns were found to be Conscientious/dutiful and Dominant/controlling, complemented by secondary Ambitious/confident and Accommodating/cooperative features. In summary, Klobuchar may be characterized as a conscientious enforcer.

Presidential Electability Index range: 13-23

Updates » The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 13-23 (18 ±5)

 
 

The Personality Profile of Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke

By Jada Gilbert, Grace Ekstrom, Nicole Praska, Jack Her, and Meghan Ortizcazarin

Jada Gilbert, Jack Her, and Grace Ekstrom present their poster, “The Personality Profile of 2020 U.S. Presidential Contender Beto O’Rourke,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Beto O’Rourke’s primary personality patterns were found to be Outgoing/congenial and Dauntless/adventurous, complemented by secondary Accommodating/cooperative and Ambitious/confident features. In summary, O’Rourke may be characterized as an adventurous extravert.

Presidential Electability Index range: 11-23

Updates » The Personality Profile of U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 11-23 (17 ±6)

 
 

The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

By Andrew Saunders, Thomas Lenard, Erik Balder, and Isaias Guzman

Erik Balder and Aaron Montpetit present their poster, “The Personality Profile of 2020 U.S. Presidential Contender Bernie Sanders,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Bernie Sanders’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/asserting and Dauntless/adventurous, complemented by secondary Ambitious/confident and Contentious/resolute features. In summary, Sanders may be characterized as a deliberative nonconformist.

Presidential Electability Index range: 16-23

Updates » The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 16-23 (19.5 ±3.5)

 
 

The Personality Profile of China’s President Xi Jinping

By Nathaniel Lutmer, Anna Faerber, and Mariah Ogden-Kellington

Mariah Ogden-Kellington, Nate Lutmer, and Anna Faerber present their poster, “The Personality Profile of China’s President Xi Jinping,” at Scholarship Day, College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, MN, April 25, 2019. (Click on photo for full-size image)

习近平


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Xi Jinping’s primary personality patterns were found to be Ambitious/confident and Dominant/asserting, complemented by secondary Outgoing/congenial and Accommodating/cooperative features. In summary, Xi may be characterized as a confident, high-dominance extravert.

 


 

Related reports

The Personality Profile of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

By Suntina Spehar, Austen Luetmer, Annie Griebie, and Cassidy Smith


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Pete Buttigieg’s primary personality patterns were found to be Accommodating/cooperative, Ambitious/confident, and Outgoing/congenial, complemented by secondary Conscientious/respectful and Reticent/circumspect features. In summary, Buttigieg may be characterized as an ambitious conciliator.

Presidential Electability Index range: 10-18

Updates » The Personality Profile of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 10-18 (14 ±4)

 
 
The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

By Annie Griebie, Cassidy Smith, and Suntina Spehar


Click on image for larger view

Abstract: Elizabeth Warren’s primary personality patterns are Conscientious/dutiful and Dominant/controlling, complemented by secondary Ambitious/confident features and minor Reticent/circumspect, Retiring/reserved, and Contentious/resolute tendencies. In summary, Warren may be characterized as a dominant doctrinaire – highly assertive, strong-willed, outspoken, detail-oriented, organized, and ideological, buttressed by confidence in her policy positions and motivated for public service both by a sense of duty and personal ambition.

Presidential Electability Index range: 6-8

Updates » The Personality Profile of U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

Presidential Electability Index

Range: 6-8 (7 ±1)

 
 

2020 Presidential Candidates


Photo composite: The New York Times

 


 

Related reports on this site

Psychological Profiles of 2016 Republican Presidential Candidates (April 24, 2015)

Psychological Profiles of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un Presented at Scholarship Day (April 27, 2018)

Donald Trump poster (S&CD 2018)



The Ingraham Angle on Fox News (March 20, 2019)


“Ingraham to Trump: You’ve stepped on your own message by focusing on McCain, Conway” — There’s too much left to be done to waste a moment on score settling, the host of ‘The Ingraham Angle’ says. (2:20)

Months after John McCain’s death, Trump keeps feud with him alive (Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni, and Michael Tackett, New York Times, March 21, 2019) — The president said he gave the Arizona senator “the funeral he wanted, and I didn’t get ‘thank you,’” escalating attacks on Mr. McCain that began over the weekend. …


Photo credit: The Hill


Related report on this site

In Memory of Sen. John McCain (1936-2018) (Aug. 25, 2018)



Obituary



As reported in the New York Times (March 8, 2019), the collapse of the Feb. 27-28 Hanoi summit meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump “was considered a big embarrassment” for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “because he had to return home empty-handed after Mr. Trump rejected his demand for relief from United Nations sanctions.”

Satellite imagery indicating North Korea has begun to rebuild the Sohae Satellite Launching Station at Tongchang-ri has raised fears among some analysts that the country might resume missile tests (New York Times, March 5, 2019).

Sohae Satellite Launching Station, March 6, 2019 (Credit: Pleiades © CNES 2019, Distribution Airbus Defence & Space via 38 North)

The U.S. response to these developments is critical to the progress of denuclearization talks with North Korea. In that regard, it is noteworthy that DPRK state media adopted a conciliatory tone, expressing the hope that “the whole world sincerely hopes that the peace process on the Korean Peninsula will proceed smoothly and the North Korea-United States relations will improve soon” (Rodong Sinmun, March 8, 2019).

The New York Times notes that the DPRK “has shied away from using harsh language against the United States or Mr. Trump” and that by “only indirectly blaming Washington for the failure and voicing hopes for better ties,” the Rodong Sinmun commentary “appeared to signal a willingness to keep diplomacy alive with the United States.”

That perspective suggests a path forward for the U.S., considering the political psychology of Kim Jong-un:

Chairman Kim is cooperative, willing to compromise or make concessions to resolve differences; however, he is also confident, competitive, and assertive and expects others to recognize his capabilities. As a dominant, controlling leader, he demands respect and can be tough and unsentimental in asserting himself. Finally, as an outgoing, expressive personality, he is not averse to employing dramatic, attention‑getting maneuvers to signal intent or to achieve his political objectives.

Thus, for President Trump, this is not the time to employ coercive diplomacy by reverting to “maximum pressure,” personal affronts to Chairman Kim’s dignity, or otherwise signaling hostile intent. Instead, the president should stay the course by continuing to emphasize his special relationship with Kim to accommodate his need for self-validation and permit him to save face as his nation’s supreme leader in the aftermath of the failed Hanoi summit.

In response to signals from North Korea on the resumption of rocket testing and satellite- or missile launches, there are three political-psychological inflection points for targeting resistance and gaining compliance:

  • President Trump should guard against manipulative behavior by the DPRK designed to secure short-term payoffs.
  • President Trump should be aware of and preempt Chairman Kim’s predisposition to terminate the negotiation partnership upon
    realizing the structural constraints on the ability of the president to make concessions or offer assistance.
  • President Trump should deescalate the situation by reaffirming the strength of the negotiation partnership.

——————————————

March 14, 2019 Update

North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launch Facility: No new activity since March 8 (Jack Liu, Peter Makowsky, and Jenny Town, 38 North, March 13, 2019) — Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (Tongchang-ri) shows no changes to the launch pad or engine test stand between March 8 and March 13. … Full report

——————————————

March 16, 2019 Update

The U.S. and North Korea are back to talking tough (Uri Friedman, The Atlantic, March 16, 2019) — The attack dogs have been let loose. That much was clear from the stark message North Korea delivered this week after the collapse of Donald Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam last month: Kim is considering abandoning nuclear negotiations with the United States and resuming the nuclear and missile tests that brought the two countries to the brink of war early on in the Trump administration. … The unmuzzling of the attack dogs on each side is a reminder that Trump and Kim are each contending with a hard-line faction at home that views the diplomacy they’re engaged in as a hopeless and dangerous endeavor. As [North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui] noted this week, Kim decided to press ahead with diplomacy in Vietnam despite the fact that military leaders are petitioning him not to give up his nuclear program. … Full report

——————————————
March 22, 2019 Update

CNN-Politics_The-Point

March 22, 2018

FOREIGN POLICY BY TWEET

President Donald Trump’s early afternoon tweet sent the international community scrambling.

Trump tweeted the administration would withdraw additional sanctions against North Korea … even though those additional sanctions had just been announced by his own administration.

The White House declined to give details on the sudden policy shift, but said Trump was pulling back newly issued sanctions because he “likes” North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, according to CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kylie Atwood.

It was not immediately clear which sanctions Trump was referring to in his tweet. But just 24 hours earlier, the Treasury Department announced sanctions targeting two Chinese shipping companies that have allegedly helped North Korea skirt sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

————————————

May 5, 2019 Update

Kim Personally Supervised ‘Guided Weapons’ Test, North Korea Says

By Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim

May 4, 2019

Excerpts

SEOUL — North Korea confirmed Sunday that it had fired multiple rocket launchers and “tactical guided weapons” from its east coast the previous day under the personal supervision of leader Kim Jong Un, with experts saying the test included a short-range ballistic missile.

The test does not invalidate North Korea’s self-declared moratorium on inter-continental ballistic missile tests, but it clearly raises tensions with Washington and Seoul. …

Earlier, President Trump appeared to play down the threat and leave the door open to diplomacy.

“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” he tweeted. …

The launches set off a flurry of phone calls and meetings, with, for instance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talking to Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono and South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha. Special Envoy Stephen Biegun talked to his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon, and South Korea’s national security director convened an emergency meeting. …

Pyongyang announced a moratorium on nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile tests in November 2017, helping to set the stage for the talks with South Korea and the United States. But tensions have grown since the breakdown of a summit in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The regime is frustrated with the continued imposition of United Nations Security Council sanctions and by what it sees as unilateral U.S. demands that it disarm.

It has also repeatedly complained about continued military exercises between the United States and South Korea. It recently warned that American hostility would “as wind is bound to bring waves . . . naturally bring our corresponding acts.”

Last month, it announced that Kim had attended the successful testing of a “tactical guided weapon,” and the latest missile launch appears to be a further calibrated step to signal its frustration.

Grace Liu, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, Calif., called the launch “a signal” that the Pyongyang regime wants movement on negotiations with the United States.

In a speech last month, Kim Jong Un said he would be prepared to meet Trump for a third summit, but only if the United States fundamentally changed its approach. He also warned that his patience was running out and gave the United States until the end of the year to make a “bold decision.”

“The message here is not that diplomacy is over — remember, Kim has set the clock ticking to the end of the year,” said Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow in the Defense Posture Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “Rather, this serves, like the tactical weapon tests, to show internal naysayers . . . that Kim takes national defense seriously.”

It can also be seen as a “tit-for-tat” move in response to U.S.-South Korea exercises, he said.

Shin Beom-chul, at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, noted that North Korea had also objected strongly to last month’s U.S.-South Korean training on an anti-ballistic missile defense system purchased from the United States, denouncing it as a “military provocation.”

“I view [the launch] as a way to pressure the United States,” he said. “They are reacting to South Korea’s military build up and THAAD missile defense training, while showing the possibility of carrying out a strategic provocation like a long-range missile launch.”

Such a long-range missile launch, if it happened, would devastate President Trump’s “self-proclaimed achievement in North Korea policy,” he said.

Harry Kazianis, Korean studies director at the National Interest said it was a sign of Kim’s mounting frustration and warned it had raised risks of an escalation in tension.

“Chairman Kim has decided to remind the world — and specifically the United States — that his weapons capabilities are growing by the day,” he said. “My fear is that we are at the beginning stages of a slide back to the days of nuclear war threats and personal insults, a dangerous cycle of spiking tensions that must be avoided at all costs.”

——————————————

October 3, 2019 Update

US Officials Assess North Korea Launched a Medium-Range Missile

By Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne

October 2, 2019

Excerpts

The US has assessed that North Korea tested a medium-range missile on Wednesday local time. It was fired from a launcher placed on a floating barge off the coast of the country, according to two US officials familiar with the latest assessment.

The test came a day after Pyongyang and Washington agreed to resume nuclear talks.

This marks a departure from the tests of shorter range missiles Pyongyang has carried out in recent weeks. President Donald Trump has downplayed the significance of those launches calling them very standard because of their limiting range saying “many people have those missiles.”

“There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-ranged — no ballistic missile test. No long-range missiles,” Trump said in August.

The missile was launched from near Wonsan, a city in Kangwon Province on North Korea’s east coast and flew for a distance of 450 kilometers (280 miles) before landing in waters off Japan. It reached an altitude of 910 kilometers (565 miles), South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff said in a statement Wednesday. …

Shortly after the launch US and South Korean officials said the missile was assessed to be a Submarine Launch Ballistic type missile (SLBM), though a US official said it was launched from a barge-like platform designed to test underwater launches and not a submarine which North Korea has never demonstrate the ability to fire from.

The latest US assessment says that the missile was not underwater when it was launched from the barge.

While North Korea has launched multiple short-range missiles in recent weeks it has not launched a medium-range missile since 2017, long before the June 2018 meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was held in Singapore.

The most recent North Korean launch took place the day after Pyongyang and Washington agreed to resume nuclear talks.

Trump has yet to comment on the latest North Korean launch but a State Department spokesperson called on Pyongyang “to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization.”

Short-range ballistic missiles are considered to be missiles with a range of anything less than 1,000 kilometers, approximately 620 miles. Medium-range ballistic missiles have a range of between 1,000 and 3,000 kilometers or approximately 620-1,860 miles. …

After more than a year of refraining from missile tests, Kim’s regime has conducted 11 launches since May including Wednesday’s. Most of those are believed to be short-range missiles, and experts say they have shown impressive technological advancements.

 


 

Topical report

The Personality Profile of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un

ISPP-2018_Kim-Jong-Un_poster
Click on image for larger view