Of the little we’ve seen of Bernie Madoff’s personality, the weirdest and most intriguing thing about him is the impulse he seems to have to want to do good in the midst of doing things that are just terrible: Before he was arrested, his sons reported to authorities, he wanted to distribute the $300 million or so in stolen money he had left to his loyal employees. He was involved with innumerable charities, even as he was robbing them blind. And now he’s in trouble for mailing more than $1 million of personal items to family and friends.
The items included watches, $25 cuff links given to Mr. Madoff by his granddaughter, pens and $200 mittens that were a Hanukkah gift.
A Hanukkah gift! Bernie, you shouldn’t have! No, really, you shouldn’t have. A couple of weeks ago, a rabbi suggested to the Times that these gestures were Madoff’s way of atoning for his sins. But having dated our share of narcissists, it’s our unqualified opinion that that’s what drives his generoristy.
His gestures are ostensibly to help other people, but it’s really all about him and how he wants himself to be perceived. I was thinking of you. Here are some things to remember me by. But he’s not even thinking about them at all: He didn’t even consider the effect his actions would ultimately have on the charities, or that the bonuses and gifts will be seized, or that his family will ultimately be ruined. Even now, he’s still obsessed with getting people to like him. Witness this telling moment, observed by the Post’s Andrea Peyser, generally not the greatest observer of human nuance, during Madoff’s court date yesterday:
He skulked into the courtroom looking grim. He looked around the room, seeking a friendly face, and ultimately gave a small smile to a woman in attendance. She frowned and looked away.
Maybe he has a shot at that mental-illness plea after all.
Prosecutors Seek to Jail Madoff [WSJ]