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Psychologists: Blagojevich trial reveals narcissism
By Robert McCoppin | Daily Herald Staff

Rod Blagojevich


Daniel White | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/5/2010 12:59 PM | Updated: 7/5/2010 5:14 PM

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Ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's denial that anything was wrong, selling himself to reality shows, even his always-perfect hair have caused some to question his state of mind.

But now that Blagojevich's federal corruption trial reveals his interest in running for president, his jealousy of others, and his struggle to get money while he and his wife spent $400,000 on clothes over six years, some psychologists say they believe they can put a name to his mental status.

Specifically, two prominent Chicago psychologists said Blagojevich displays symptoms of a condition officially known as narcissistic personality disorder.

Dr. Daniela Schreier, a forensic psychologist at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, said it's impossible to make a clinical diagnosis without a personal evaluation, which she has not done. But, she said, Blagojevich definitely has traits of the condition.

She compared him to former President Richard Nixon and to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

"Nixon always denied he did anything wrong," she said. "And even when he was defeated, on the island of Elba, Napoleon still tried to round up a local army."

Schreier cites Blagojevich as a case study in her class on psychological pathology at the Chicago School of Psychology, which offers classes in Chicago and Grayslake, as well as in other cities.

Despite political success that culminated in the leadership of the state, Blagojevich sees himself as the underdog son of an immigrant steelworker, and always maintains an upbeat public persona, she noted.

"He's very glib and superficial," she said. "He's very self-confident, maybe overly self-confident. He's dramatic and erratic. He has an inability to acknowledge, 'I messed up.'"

Blagojevich is hardly alone in those traits. U.S. political culture values many of those characteristics, Schreier said, blaming them as part of the reason we often wind up with political scandals.

Scott Ambers, a Chicago psychologist, said Blagojevich appears to "hit the jackpot" in meeting the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder.

"Everything that's come out has confirmed it even more so," he said, following testimony that Blagojevich consistently wrangled to get a job or appointment in return for appointing someone to a U.S. Senate seat.

"One hallmark of a narcissistic personality is they're motivated almost exclusively by self-interest," he said. "So if you're gong to have someone in public office whose motivations are predominantly, 'What's in it for me?' in the long run they're not going to serve the citizens very well."