Patricia Highsmith wrote the book(s) on charming homicidal sociopathy when she invented a character named Tom Ripley. "Suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral" he was the consummate con artist, able to fool most of the people all of the time. He lied, he cheated, and he stole. And on the unpalatable occasions when he had to kill for security reasons, he cried crocodile tears in public and profited in private. Paradoxically, he absolutely detested having to murder people, Highsmith explained, unless it was absolutely necessary. When he did confess his crimes to sympathetic friends, they glossed over it. He was just so damned adorable, and he looked so cute when he smiled.
Roger Ebert described Ripley as "charming, literate and a monster," devoted to his wife, offended by the bad manners of others less intelligent than himself, but polite and friendly to a fault. Oh, and understandably secretive and paranoid.
Explaining his personality disorder, Ripley told a confidante (and future victim), "I always thought it was better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody."
And now we come to the latest entry in the growing genre known as Inside the Beltway Gossip. It could be the long-lost Highsmith novel where Tom Ripley enters national politics, and the hordes of sycophants are so enthralled that even when they do notice his psychopathic tendencies, they don't care. It's because such tendencies and the actions that follow them have become absolutely normalized. The country has become as sick as the perpetrator leading it.
We knew, of course, through "controlled leaks" that we have elected a man who personally selects his drone assassination victims on "Terror Tuesdays." When he deigns to publicly discuss the assassinations, he is always careful to disclaim "collateral damage" of innocents and insists that predator missiles are a necessary "tough choice" he has to make to keep America safe. He absolutely detests having to do it.
But now, out of the blue, we're discovering that our urbane president shockingly sheds this politesse when he's behind closed doors. He's bragged to his closest aides and confidantes about what a good killer he is. Dare we say that he enjoys what he professes to despise?
The book, "Double Down" by Mark Helperin and John Heilemann, isn't out yet, but a CNN reporter named Peter Hamby scored an advance copy and wrote a review for the Washington Post. The only thing more invidious than Obama bragging about assassinating people is that the writer buried the lead. He doesn't even get around to quoting the president saying "I'm really good at killing people" until the middle of his three-page review.
Of course, Patricia Highsmith does not get around to letting us know that the personable Tom Ripley is a maniac until the middle of the first novel in her series, either. The difference, of course, is that her narrative is fictional.
Before we get to pleasurable homicide-by-president we have to be told that Mitt Romney rejected Chris Christie as his running mate because he was too mean, too fat, and maybe just a little bit crooked.
But what really has the group-thinkers in a tizzy, and the White House scrambling to deny, is the snippet that Obama mulled dumping Joe Biden from the ticket like Ripley dumped his best buddy in Lake Como. Not true, the White House protests. And one of those "close aides," Dan Pfeiffer, even went on TV Sunday to announce that "the president is always frustrated about leaks."
"He hates leaks. Everyone hates leaks!" Pfeiffer shrilled, glancing over his shoulder nervously. (Okay, so I made the glancing part up. But how would you feel if your boss had told you in utmost confidence that he thinks he is very talented at killing people? Wouldn't you be a little antsy, and go out of your way to defend him in public?)
Pfeiffer made no mention of Obama's kill skills. So, I'm wondering if Obama's bragging to his entourage about his homicidal prowess is just one of those "controlled leaks" designed to establish his sociopathy cred to Dick Cheney, currently on his own book tour and still bragging about how he loved ordering torture. He remembers it fondly, with gusto, and he has no regrets. But flying in the face of all fact, he is still out there calling Barry a wimp and a nobody. And that cannot stand unchallenged. Better to be a somebody who drones than a nobody good guy.
And let's be clear. Washington insiders, Congress, Republicans and Democrats, citizens willingly in thrall to political somebodies who are nobodies, don't give a crap about murder-by-drone when the victims are out of sight, out of mind and "the other." When a group of survivors of Obama's drone-killing spree testified on Capitol Hill recently, only five congress critters even bothered showing up to listen. There was little to no coverage of their appearance by the corporate media.
We need a comeback for that other Ripley... the one who did the "Believe It Or Not" comic strip. He wouldn't have to look far to find grisly new source material in the Age of Obama.