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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Sociopath alert: Wendy Davis

Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has been in the news recently for having stretched the truth about her past.

Her campaign website says, "Mine is a story about a teenage single mother who struggled to keep her young family afloat. It's a story about a young woman who was given a precious opportunity to work her way up in the world. It's a story about resiliency, and sacrifice, and perseverance. And you're damn right it's a true story."

(If I hadn't heard anything about this story, that last sentence would still have given me pause: why add that it's a true story? Nobody had accused her of lying when she wrote that. The lady doth protest too loudly.)

Davis claimed to have been a divorced single mother living in a trailer at age 19 who put herself through Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

The truth was a bit more complicated. She was 21, not 19, when she got divorced. And she lived in a family mobile home for only a few months before moving into an apartment with her daughter.

So far, these seem like fairly benign misrepresentations. Perhaps she was separated, if not divorced, at age 19; and she did live in a trailer, if only briefly.

But, according to Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News:

A single mother working two jobs, she met Jeff Davis, a lawyer 13 years older than her, married him and had a second daughter. He paid for her last two years at Texas Christian University and her time at Harvard Law School, and kept their two daughters while she was in Boston. When they divorced in 2005, he was granted parental custody, and the girls stayed with him. Wendy Davis was directed to pay child support.

Davis got a man to support her. So, from age 24 on, it was no longer quite the story of "resiliency, sacrifice, and perseverance" that she had painted. And she certainly didn't "put herself" through Harvard Law School.

But even there, the misrepresentations seem more like exaggerations than lies made out of whole cloth. After all, she did have to support herself from age 19 to 24. So far, the "scandal" seems a bit overblown.

But lying -- or at least stretching the truth -- about one's past always emits a faint odor of sociopathy, and a closer look at Davis' life leaves little doubt about her character.

First, her explanation for the misrepresentations came across as more devious than her original fibs: "My language should be tighter. I'm learning about using broader, looser language. I need to be more focused on the detail." This is the kind of lawyerly, Clintonian evasion which is meant to imply that her faulty statement was a matter of semantics, with no dishonesty involved. (It is a peculiarly sociopathic trait to not admit guilt even when one has been caught red-handed.)

Her second husband, Jeff Davis, liquidated his 401k in order to finance her education, then eventually took out loans as well.

According to Slater:

Jeff Davis said that [their separation] was right around the time the final payment on their Harvard Law School loan was due. “It was ironic,” he said. “I made the last payment, and it was the next day she left.”

This would indicate that her primary interest in him was financial. Gold diggers tend to be at the very least narcissistic, if not outright sociopaths. And leaving the day after he finished paying off her loans speaks of a coldness that goes beyond mere narcissism.

Wendy Davis did not even try to get custody of her children:

According to Jeff Davis, “She said, ‘I think you’re right; you’ll make a good, nurturing father. While I’ve been a good mother, it’s not a good time for me right now.’”

Note how she said she was a good mother -- as if she can be a fair judge of herself on that score. She undoubtedly kept her children fed and clothed and bathed. But did she give them the greatest gift a mother can give her children -- love? No, not if she could give them up so easily. If you really love your children, it's always a good time to be with them.

(Merely entering politics, just like being a Hollywood producer or being a corporate CEO, seems almost a yellow flag for sociopathy these days. Having these occupations obviously does not mean you're a sociopath; but you're far more likely to be.)

Davis didn't even enter politics with a clearcut political vision. She started out as a Republican, then switched parties. This implies that her career was driven less by political feeling and more by personal ambition. (There's nothing wrong with being ambitious, but cloaking that ambition with a patina of platitudes about how you're doing it for "the people," or other noble reasons, is exactly the kind of thing that sociopaths do.)

While researching this post, I stumbled across a video of Davis in which she said, "I love this state," referring to Texas. What exactly does Davis mean when she says that? Does she love the actual territory that is in Texas until she comes to the Oklahoma border and then all of a sudden the ground there holds less appeal to her? Does she love all Texans? People who aren't sociopaths know that you can only truly love a few people in your life. But sociopaths don't truly love anybody. So they tend to throw the word around promiscuously, as in, "I love you all!" or, "I love this state." It's a ridiculous concept, but Davis stated with full-throated conviction, as if she really, with all her heart, loves…a state.

Sociopaths often give themselves away with that kind of false emotionality.

Here's a picture of Davis when she was at Harvard Law School:

And here's a more recent picture of her:

(Her political opponents now call her "Abortion Barbie.") I couldn't find a picture of her torso when she was young, but large, immune-to-gravity breasts sprouting out from the bony chest of a 50-year-old woman usually mean implants. And her face is barely recognizable.

Again, plenty of non-sociopaths get plastic surgery; but a sociopath is far more likely to get it.

I was also struck by this picture of Davis:

As I've pointed out elsewhere on the blog, sociopathic inmates looking for penpals often pose with animals in an attempt to look warm and affectionate. (Here's another such murderous poseur, at the bottom of this post.) But when someone's on Death Row for murder, posing this way is obviously just an attempt to mislead. I couldn't help but be reminded of those pictures when I saw this photo. (Here's a picture of another sociopathic politician posing the same way.) Maybe Davis really did feel an overwhelming amount of affection for this dog; but given her attitude toward her own children, that seems doubtful.

To pose this way with a dog is really a form of manipulation, to pull at the heartstrings of true dog-lovers. Note that her smile is directed not at the pet, but at the camera.

Davis initially gained a modicum of national attention for her eight hour filibuster against any restrictions on late term abortions in the state legislature. Filibusters have been around since the time of Roman Senator Cato the Younger. And in the past, they have been an effective diversionary legislative tactic. But the opportunity to filibuster also seems to attract those who want attention, and who want to appear heroic.

It can attract those who don't otherwise seem sociopathic, like Rand Paul. Or it can attract those who do, like Ted Cruz or Wendy Davis.

Verdict: between the fact that she exaggerated her background, never really owned up to those misrepresentations even when caught, left her husband the day after he finished paying off the loans he took our for her education, didn't want even partial custody of her own daughters, and displays false emotions, it's pretty clear Davis is a sociopath.


Anonymous said...

"Merely entering politics, just like being a Hollywood producer or being a corporate CEO, seems almost a yellow flag for sociopathy these days. Having these occupations obviously does not mean you're a sociopath; but you're far more likely to be"

I recently saw a study linking sociopathic traits with interest in finance. Participants (I was one) had to fill a questionnaire about their personality and then say which newspaper they read most often. The least sociopathic participants read The Guardian, whilst the most sociopathic ones read the Financial Times. The link to the study is here:

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin -
Sorry, just hit the "reject" button by accident, so I had to copy and paste your comment, which means that the link is not highlighted.

You're right, the financial industry is rife with sociopaths. I was originally going to put "hedge fund manager' instead of "corporate CEO," but I decided to broaden it, and in fact, successfully navigating one's way up a corporate ladder is more indication of sociopathy than opening up one's own hedge fund. That said, Wall Street in general seems to have more sociopaths than most of corporate America.

I just took that test, as honestly as I could, and scored a 24%, towards the "decent" end of the spectrum (though not all the way). But I'm extremely leery of such a test: in essence, it asks you to self-grade yourself on your "niceness" and then takes your answers at face value. I suspect that a lot of sociopaths take the test and make themselves sound nicer than they are.

Anonymous said...

That could be the case, but why would they? It isn't as if they'd be trying to cheat anyone in pretending to be nice since the answers are submitted anonymously. I get that tests like these are not perfect, but the results would be at least somewhat indicative of reality, even if slightly skewed.

- Gethin

Glen Filthie said...

I am puzzled. I am a rational adult (twice a year when I'm sober) - but I listen to my gut.

For some reason that woman makes me figuratively want to reach down and loosen my side arm in its holster. I get bad vibes off her just from looking at her. She is setting off my spider sense or something.

I know better than to trust my gut completely; Hillary Clinton, for example - looks like a nice old grandmother to me - and she is crazier than a chit house mouse.

Porkies and fibs aside, any woman that has been divorced twice is probably untrustworthy.

John Craig said...

Gethin --
What you say is true, but a lot of sociopaths lie all the time anyway, just for the heck of it, and just to cause whatever havoc they can.

Glen --
Davis is definitely bad news. I have to say, though, that if I just saw her briefly, whether the alarm bells would ring. As far as her looks, she does seem to have transformed herself, judging from that Harvard Law picture, from a young-witch-in-the-making into a MILF. I don't go for implants, but other than that, I'd have to say she's attractive.

As far as Hillary, I don't even see her physically any more. After all her history, I just see her personality, which is very slippery. I don't see her as crazy, merely conniving.

I wouldn't quite make that blanket statement about any woman who's been divorced twice, some have just had bad luck, but multiple divorces tend to be a sign.

Anonymous said...

It is most shocking to me that she did not seek joint custody, and she left her first child with a man who was not even the biological father.

the lying about her past is typical of most politicians. it. In the past, before the internet, it was easy to get away with the deception. Bill Clinton is one example, grew up Upper Middle class after his mother married a successful businessman who owned a car dealership and bought a 400 acre farm to live on when Clinton was 9. Clinton was raised with nannies, not typical of the middles class, and his father sent him to college with a brand new convertible. yet he tried to play up his humble origins.

Pavonine99 said...

So, do you consider Mitt Romney to be a sociopath? He throws the word "love" around in a similar way to Davis, and there are a number of stories circulating about his coldness.

The sociopaths and pets thing seems to be a time-honored tradition amoung dictators(Hitler and his dogs, Putin and his dogs...). I read somewhere that many sociopaths do have some affinity for animals,especially dogs, mostly because they are comepletely dependent and their affection is reliable.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You're right, not seeking joint custody is almost all you'd have to know about her. And her excuse for that, which I don't think I put in the post ("It was important to me that they remain in the house in which they grew up") is pretty facile.

And yes, it was a lot easier to get away with fibbing pre-internet.

Pavonine --
There's nothing I've seen about Romney that says sociopath to me. I haven't heard him use the word "love" the same way Davis did. Maybe I should had specified in the post, a lot of people say things like "I love ice cream" or "I love Martin Scorsese" with "love" obviously meaning "like." But when Davis said she loved Texas, she said it in this really heartfelt, emotional -- and very fake -- sort of way. If Romney has talked that way, I haven't caught it. And the stories I've heard about Romney are more about how he doesn't relate to people, not how he's cold. Maybe I'm just out of the loop, I don't now.

You're right, dictators and their pets are a theme of sorts. I hadn't heard that about sociopaths, but I suppose it makes sense for them for the same reason dogs are appealing to everybody else.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of sociopaths and pets, my deceased ex father-in-law (who I believe was a sociopath), the only time any of his kids saw their father cry was when a family dog died. What I've noticed about men who are sociopaths is that they seem to be somewhat goofy - maybe it's their immaturity that I'm noticing (I don't know for sure). The first time I met my future father-in-law (he was in his 80's at the time), the man sat with me in his living room and talked to me non-stop (over an hour) telling me some B.S. story about himself, coming across as a bit nutty to me. In his story, he talked only about himself, making himself out to be heroic, a great guy. In time, I learned the truth about him (via my then relatives), figuring out that he had the traits of a sociopath. Unfortunately, I married the guy I was dating and had the distinct pleasure of learning first-hand about sociopaths (being sarcastic), a hellish experience to say the least. They literally put their victims through craziness.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
Like father, like son, I guess. What was your ex-mother-in-law like, or was she in the picture? I'm afraid the only way any of us really learn about sociopaths is through firsthand experience.

Can't explain about the sociopathic attachment to pets. I'm not even sure I buy it; I think with most of them it's a pose. I've heard that animal shelters actually have to watch out for them, as they will abuse and sometimes even eventually kill their pets. Whenever anybody comes in for a second pet after a short period of time, their antenna go up.

Anonymous said...

My future mother-in-law was present. After my marriage fell apart, I learned more about the family dynamics, slowly coming to realize how dysfunctional they all are/were. The mother in this family did not bond with her children - she had six children with her husband. He was physically abusive toward the children (and probably her as well). She felt rejected by her babies (I observed how she was with my babies, finding her behavior odd), so she would want to put them down (we're talking infants). When her babies were fussy, she would think that they didn't like her (I am not exaggerating) and felt it necessary to put them down, like in a crib, not even taking the time to figure out why her babies were fussy. She had her oldest child, a daughter, "help" her raise her siblings. This daughter essentially became a mother to her own mother (and is still a mother to her to this day) and to her siblings, sacrificing her childhood to her mother. I suspect that some of the other siblings are disordered too, to a degree. Her oldest daughter told me that her mother was unnurturing and unaffectionate, that she didn't think that any of her siblings bonded with their mother.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
Wow, a crazy, un-nurturing mother and an abusive father. That's the formula for producing sociopaths. You've made the oldest daughter sound (relatively) normal but some of the others siblings (besides your ex) must have been sociopathic too.

No wonder you have such an interest in sociopaths.

Anonymous said...

Birdie, I thought you were talking about my ex, another sociopath, in your post. It just goes to show how sociopaths do indeed all have the same blueprints!

Anonymous said...

"What you say is true, but a lot of sociopaths lie all the time anyway, just for the heck of it, and just to cause whatever havoc they can."

Actually, you're right. It's been so long since I last knowingly had contact with a sociopath that I had forgotten how they lie for fun. It confused me the first time I figured a sociopath out: he was lying about things that didn't make sense, things that would have been easier to tell the truth about because he had nothing to gain from lying. His behaviour left me scratching my head for a while.

I guess Professor Dutton's study is more about sociopathic traits in 'normal' people than actual, diagnosable, sociopathy.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Yes, their motive for "sport lying" seems to be twofold. First, they get to be destructive and foul things up by misleading people. And second, they actually use it as a way to prove to themselves that they're smarter than others, because they can get something over on them. Pathetic as that sounds, that's how they think.

Quartermain said...

Trolluping little whore, thy name is Wendy Davis.

Reg C├Žsar said...

To offer some balance to that "study" above, the Financial Times has much to offer non- and anti-sociopaths as well.

Specifically, readers of this blog might enjoy the gentle-but-thorough, and artful, deflating of cant in the weekly columns of Lucy Kellaway (Monday) and Christopher Caldwell (weekend).

John Craig said...

Reg --
Thank you, I'll try to check those out some time.

Anonymous said...

John, any woman filibustering and fighting for the right for late term abortions with absolutely no sense of compassion for a fully formed fetus has some big issues! I agree with pro-choice but late term abortions are particularly heinous and barbaric! Facebook was covered with Wendy Davis during her filibuster. I don't understand.

Anonymous said...

Just came across the following from a letter to the editor about Davis in the Washington Times: "That first campaign also revealed something else about Ms. Davis: She is doggedly vindictive. Amazingly she sued the Star-Telegram for criticizing her negative, misleading campaign and for endorsing her opponent, claiming damage to her mental health and impairment of her 'right to pursue public office.' Upon the court's naturally granting the newspaper a summary judgment against her frivolous suit, she had the temerity to file an appeal. After the appellate court unanimously ruled against her, she even tried to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, which, by refusing to hear her case, let the verdicts of the lower courts stand."

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
Thank you for that. Sociopaths are always doing things like that that most people would be too embarrassed to. Davis may have actually felt that the Star-Telegram had wronged her too. Sociopaths tend to se themselves as victims no matter how little that view squares with the truth.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, a crazy, un-nurturing mother and an abusive father. That's the formula for producing sociopaths. "

There is no simple formula when nature and nurture are invloved. I had a crazy, un-nurturing mother, an abusive father, and I suffered serious childhood neglect but I became an empath. My older brother, on the other hand, is a sociopath.

John Craig said...

Human --
There's no perfect formula, but a crazy, un-nurturing mother and an abusive father are certainly more likely to produce sociopaths. Sociopaths are only 3% of the population, yet that formula worked 50% of the time in your family, according tp you.

Anonymous said...

Re: Wendy Davis filibuster.

It was not a real filibuster. The speaker allowed her extended floor time with the agreement she would yield the floor within 8 hours. That fact was reported in some newscasts in the following days.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you for the clarification.

AnalogMan said...

Just found your site linked at the Woodpile report. As a dog lover, I can confirm that that photo with the dog is phony. I've seen so many photos of celebrities trying to fake it. They can't do it. They don't know how to hold a dog properly, and the dog just looks uncomfortable.

In this photo, notice how she is trying to hold the dog, who is resisting. That's a labrador, a very affectionate breed. Dogs know if you're a dog lover or not, and they respond accordingly. If she really loved that dog, it would be all over her, even though (obviously) it's not even her dog.

John Craig said...

AnalogMan --
Good point, I hadn't even thought of that photo from the dog's point of view. But I guess he was sending a message in his own way too.