Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Aug 10th, 2009

The Personality Profile of Vice President Dick Cheney

Aubrey Immelman, Jaclynn Beier, and Carl Haefemeyer
Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics
August 2009


We conducted a remote psychological assessment of former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney in spring and summer 2009, mining open-source data in the public domain. Information concerning Mr. Cheney was collected from media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the second edition of the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Cheney’s primary personality pattern was found to be Conscientious / dutiful. His secondary pattern was Dominant / controlling. Cheney also had an elevated score on the Distrusting (suspicious) pattern; however, it did not reach a diagnostically relevant scale elevation.

Leaders with an amalgam of Conscientious (obsessive) and Dominant (aggressive) patterns such as those evident in Cheney’s profile are best characterized as obsessive enforcers.

Obsessive enforcers are characterized by a moralistic conscience, permeated by a strong power motive. A stickler for rules and propriety, they are unrestrained in discharging their hostile impulses against those whom they find contemptible — ostensibly in the public interest. Not only do they act as though they have a monopoly on divining right and wrong, these personalities also believe they have a right and the obligation to control and punish transgressors, and that they are uniquely qualified to determine how punishment should be meted out.

Although obsessive enforcers operate under the guise of legitimate socially sanctioned roles to serve the public interest, the deeper motives that spur the aggressive enforcing actions of leaders with this personality style are of questionable legitimacy, given the extraordinary force with which they are willing to mete out condemnation and punishment. In the context of public service, the trademark characteristic of obsessive enforcers is first to search out rule-breakers and perpetrators of infractions that fall within the purview of their socially sanctioned role, and then to exercise what they view as their legitimate powers to the utmost.

The modus operandi of the obsessive enforcer invariably provokes opposition and resistance, which in turn incites and perpetuates ever-stronger countermeasures against real and perceived enemies. Their resulting “bunker mentality” may mimic a paranoid orientation, but more likely is simply a manifestation of hardball politics in the service of an obdurate, relentless, uncompromising, no-holds-barred striving to preserve and consolidate personal power and control.

In public life the fatal flaw of the “obsessive enforcer” leadership style is that, in carrying out their duties, these leaders may find it difficult to restrain the emotions that drive their controlling behaviors. Ultimately, dominating everything and everyone may become their single-minded goal, at the expense of exercising their responsibilities in a prudent, measured, self-restrained manner.

The major political implication of the study is that it sheds light on the extraordinary degree of power and influence that Vice President Cheney wielded in the Bush administration, and the former vice president’s apparent reluctance to follow the lead of former President George W. Bush in departing from the political arena upon completing his term of office.

Related study

FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago Today — August 10, 2008

On the Campaign Trail: Day 27

One year ago today, on the 27th day of my campaign against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, I featured a St. Cloud Times news report about the first leg of my 100-mile walking tour of the Sixth District, from Freeport to St. Joseph, Minn.


11 Responses to “Dick Cheney Personality Profile”
  1. Aubrey Immelman Says:

    Cross-posted from the Washington Post at

    My research team at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics recently completed a six-month project to develop a psychological profile of former Vice President Dick Cheney, for the purpose of acquiring a deeper understanding of Mr. Cheney’s pivotal role in the Bush administration.

    An abstract of the study is available at

    Upon reading Barton Gellman’s article (“Cheney uncloaks his frustration with Bush”) in the Aug. 13, 2009 issue of the Washington Post, I was astonished by the degree to which key points in his report substantiated core findings of our psychological investigation of Dick Cheney.

    Note: Pertinent parts of Gellmann’s article are excerpted at

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