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Jerrold Post, A Man Who Analyzed World Leaders' Minds For CIA, Dies At 86

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Jerrold Post has died from COVID-19. He was a man who knew world leaders and what really made them tick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JERROLD POST: He talks about economics in a very simplistic way. And one almost gets a sense in his description of his views of Russia that if he commands it, it will occur and is almost a Ross Perot-like character, as if his very persona and his very loyalty to Russia should be enough.

CHANG: That was Post on this program in 1996, assessing General Alexander Lebed, who had taken third place in Russia's presidential election.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Jerrold Post was a psychiatrist and founded the CIA's Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior. For more than two decades, he profiled world leaders, assessing their strengths and vulnerabilities, among them Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Anwar Sadat of Egypt.

CHANG: Post delivered his analysis to the highest levels of the U.S. government. He interviewed terrorists, studied suicide bombers. And after September 11, 2001, he told NPR's Morning Edition that the war to come would not be one with traditional methods.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

J POST: This is a war for people's minds. This is a particularly vicious species of psychological warfare waged with these symbolic acts. And you don't combat psychological warfare with bombs and missiles. You combat it with psychological warfare.

SHAPIRO: After Post left government, he started a consulting business and taught at Georgetown. According to his daughter, Mary Gramlich (ph), he saw patients virtually until the week before his death. Gramlich calls her father curious and inquisitive.

MEREDITH GRAMLICH: He'd have three newspapers, and he'd have piles of books. And he'd say, did you read this? And what do you think of this? And he'd share his opinion. There'd be people at the dining room table just listening rapt to his ideas about what was going on in the world. What does your dad think of this? We're always asked, what would he say about this?

CHANG: He wrote books of his own. One of them, called "Dangerous Charisma," profiled President Trump. It broke the American Psychiatric Association's so-called Goldwater rule, which prevents medical professionals from commenting on the mental health of political candidates.

CINDY POST: He's not a why guy. He's a why not guy.

SHAPIRO: That's another daughter, Cindy Post. She says her father respected the APA and was a longtime member, but she says he thought publishing that analysis was worth the risk.

C POST: If this was against the rules, then so be it because he felt that their rules needed attention and needed review immediately, if not sooner.

CHANG: Last month Jerrold Post became one of more than 283,000 people in the U.S. to die from COVID-19. He was 86 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEEN DAZE'S "ANEW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.