Is Kevin Rudd a psychopath?
Kevin Rudd is "a psychopath with a giant ego" tweeted the ALP's member for Bendigo, Steve Gibbons, last year.

Calling someone a "psychopath" is a provocative and alarming term that shouldn't be thrown around lightly - instantly conjuring up images of Ivan Milat, Charles Manson and John Jarratt in Wolf Creek.

It's also a term that's always fascinated me - as I'm uncomfortable with the idea our everyday lives are intertwined with people who are genuine, clinically diagnosed psychopaths.

And they're out there. In recent times there have been numerous articles written about psychopaths in the workplace - psychologist Robert Hare even wrote a book Snakes in Suits about psychopaths in the corporate world.

But what about our newly recycled, unstoppable, vengeance-is-mine Prime Minister Kevin Rudd? Could he actually be a psychopath?

I'm no psychologist, so I spoke with Allan McCay, a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney Law School whose speciality is behavioural genetics and sentencing. If anyone could come close to answering my question, it'd be Allan.

I asked Allan the question straight:
Could a psychopath become an Australian Prime Minister? Allan was unequivocal in his answer. "Yes. There have been plenty of psychopaths in politics - in particular, there's been research into the possibility some American presidents could be classified as psychopaths. Certainly, the research suggests there is some possibility."
A proper diagnosis for psychopathy, however, requires a lot background information and indepth interviews - forensic psychologists would hesitate to make a diagnosis from media reports.

There is also a "psychopathy checklist" - a diagnostic tool to assess for psychopathy and the perquisites make for some eyebrow-raising reading:
Impulsivity. Superficial charm. Grandiosity. Callousness. Lack of empathy. Manipulative. Pathological lying. Calmness and lack of anxiety. Unfazed if they're caught out lying - for example.
"Some have suggested a psychopath's skills could prove useful in politics," McCay points out. "A lack of empathy when making the tough decisions prime ministers undertake for example.'

But for me, I'm still nervous about the term - particularly when reading the psychopathy checklist.

So what do you think? I'm suddenly keen to empathise...