In the past 24 hours alone, I’ve heard Bernard Madoff called “an economic terrorist,” “a monster,” and repeatedly—can it be anything other than affectionately?—“Bernie.” Bernie’s “a swindler,” Bernie’s “a shit.” Good old Bernie’s the local boy who made bad.
Headline Bernie is everybody’s Bernie! He’s the stuff of song: “Bernie and Ruthie were sweethearts.” “It Was Always a Very Good Year.” “We Loved You Be-er-nie.” Conrad Birdie’s cloying fan clubs have become Con Man Bernie’s tsk-tsk-clucking claques.
Every day we don’t learn more about “Bernie”--we learn the same details again and again. From
So who was “Bernie” before he became Beelzebub? Until proven wrong, I have my own scenario. I believe he was an earnest, industrious, well-intentioned young broker who initially produced honest annual profits for others, perhaps beyond even his own expectations… until he had an “off” year. At which point his pride got the best of him. Rather than acknowledge poor performance, hence failure, he thought of making up some of the shortfall by taking money out of his own pocket to give to his clients (who had come to expect ready-Madoff profits)—and “borrowed” funds from additional clients. He would make up for it the next year and no one would be the worse for it.
Criminologists and psychoanalysts will tell you that once someone breaks the law, once he or she crosses that line, doing so the next time, and the next, gets easier and easier. Either “Bernie” failed to make up the discrepancy the next year (or two), or it became increasingly difficult and soon impossible to, or he grew to realize he didn’t have to. Never again had to!
And as he dug himself in deeper and deeper, he became delusional. Sociopathic. Criminal.