A new book by Dr. Justin Frank, director of psychiatry at George Washington University, raises many questions about the President’s mental stability.
"George W. Bush is a case study in contradiction," Dr. Frank writes in Bush On The Couch: Inside the Mind of the President. "Bush is an untreated ex-alcoholic with paranoid and megalomaniac tendencies."
In addition, a new film by documentary filmmaker, and frequent Bush critic, Michael Moore shows the President indecisive and clearly befuddled when he learned about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
While conservative critics who have not yet seen Fahrenheit 9/11 dismiss the work as an anti-Bush screed, Roger Friedman of the normally pro-Bush Fox News Network has seen the film and calls it “a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty — and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.”
Friedman also says the films “most indelible moment” comes when Bush, speaking to a group of school kids in Florida, is first informed of the 9/11 attacks.
“Instead of jumping up and leaving, he instead sat in front of the class, with an unfortunate look of confusion, for nearly 11 minutes,” Friedman says. “Moore obtained the footage from a teacher at the school who videotaped the morning program. There Bush sits, with no access to his advisers, while New York is being viciously attacked. I guarantee you that no one who sees this film forgets this episode.”
Dr. Frank says the episode is typical of how Bush deals with death and tragedy. He notes that Bush avoids funerals.
“President Bush has not attended a single funeral - other than that of President Reagan. In my book I explore some possible reasons for that, whether or not it is "presidential". I am less interested in judging his behavior on political grounds than I am in thinking about its meaning both to him and to the rest of us,” Dr. Frank says. “He has spent a lifetime of avoiding grief, starting with the death of his sister when he was 7 years old. His parents didn't help him with what must have been confusing and frightening feelings. He also has a history of evading responsibility and perhaps his not attending funerals has to do with not wanting to see the damage his policies have wrought.”
In his book, Dr. Frank also suggests Bush resents those in the military.
“Bush's behavior strongly suggests an unconscious resentment toward our own servicemen, whose bravery puts his own (nonexistent) wartime service record to shame,” he wrote.
Supporters of President Bush dismiss Frank’s book as the work of a Democrat who once headed the Washington Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, but his work has been praised by other prominent psychiatrists, including Dr. James Grotstein, Professor at UCLA Medical Center, and Dr. Irvin Yalom, MD, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University Medical School.
Dr. Carolyn Williams, a psychoanalyst who specializes in paranoid personalities, is a registered Republican and agrees with most of Dr. Frank’s conclusions.
“I find the bulk of his analysis credible,” she said in an interview. “President Bush grew up dealing with an absent but demanding father, a tough mother and an overachieving brother. All left indelible impressions on him along with a desire to prove himself at all cost because he feels surrounded by disapproval. He behavior suggests a classic paranoid personality. Additionally, his stated belief that certain actions are 'God's Will' are symptomatic of delusional behavior.”
Ryan Reynolds, a childhood friend of Bush, concurs.
“George wanted to please his father but never felt he measured up, especially when compared to Jeb,” Reynolds said.
Dr. Williams wonders if the Iraq war was not Bush’s way of “proving he could finish something his father could not by deposing Saddam Hussein.”
But Bush's desire to please his father may have backfired. Former President George H.W. Bush has remained silent publicly about the war, saying he will only discuss it with his son "in private." Close aides say that is because he disapproves of his son's actions against Iraq.
"Former President Bush does not support the war against Iraq," says former aide John Ruskin. "It is as simple at that."
While current White House aides and officials would not allow their names to be used when commenting about Bush’s erratic behavior, others like former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill confirm concerns about Bush’s mood swings.
O’Neill says Bush was moody in cabinet meetings and would wander off on tangents, mostly about Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Bush, O’Neill says, seemed more focused on Iraq than on finding Osama bin Laden and would lash out at anyone who disagreed with him.
Harleigh says it is not unusual for White House staffers to refuse to go public with their concerns about the President’s behavior.
“We saw the same thing in the Nixon years,” he says. “What is unusual is that the White House has not been able to trot out even one staffer who is willing to go public and say positive things about the President’s mental condition. That says more than anything else.”
Dr. Frank, the Democrat, says the only diagnosis he can offer for the President’s condition is removal from office.
Dr. Williams, the Republican, says she must “reluctantly agree.”
“We have too many unanswered questions about the President’s behavior,” she says. “You cannot have those kinds of unanswered questions when you are talking about the leader of the free world.”© Copyright 2005 by Capitol Hill Blue