Justin A. Frank, M.D.: It’s hard to know. But I do think, from all the evidence, that is the case -- that he does feel bolstered by his attachment to God. He is both able to use God to defeat his father, because he really can’t stand his father, and at the same time, use God to bolster his world view. He has this amazing sense of connection. Whether he hears voices or talks to God, I have no idea. But very few things about this person would surprise me in this way.comforting
I wanted to go back to your statement earlier, though, about democracy. What do we do, and how do we think about the fact that we have a President who is functioning in what is supposed to be a democracy. That opens a whole can of worms which is beyond my ken as a psychoanalyst. But I would have to say that on December 12, 2000, he was appointed to serve as President, not elected. So, in that sense, democracy was never clearly an issue in this country, ever since that fateful day, December 12th, when the Supreme Court handed down their decision.
But I think the only way to deal with somebody who is this embattled and this delusional is to invoke the 25th Amendment. It’s so ironic that it was only used once, and that was when Gerald Ford became President and Nixon was forced out because he resigned.
BuzzFlash: But then we have Cheney.
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: The way the Republicans did it in ’73 was, they got rid of Agnew first, and they made sure that the person who would be the Vice President would be somebody who would be acceptable to both sides of the aisle. Maybe they should threaten to impeach Cheney first or something, and make Bush appoint somebody else. I’d rather have Cheney than Bush.
BuzzFlash: Why is that? Many people would disagree with you.
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: A lot of people would disagree with me. I really think that Bush is not competent to be President. He is unconsciously destructive. He is out of touch with his cruelty. He is unable to think clearly when presented with new information. He cannot do it. He cannot read. He cannot pay attention to the Baker-Hamilton Report. He never looked at that report. He looked at the opening title, about a new way forward or something, and that’s what he’s been using as his slogan now. He is not able to process information.
I think Cheney, as much as he is malevolent and destructive and greedy and self-interested as an oil executive and wants absolute power, he’s out front about it. I think that he would have to negotiate in a way that’s different because he can’t not think, whereas Bush doesn’t think.
BuzzFlash: It would certainly bring Cheney out of the shadows and make him accountable. Is that what you’re saying?
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: Yes
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: I think it’s reductionistic to say that it’s rejecting his father and turning the Baker report into an intervention by his father. And by reductionistic, I mean, it oversimplifies things. I think what he does is he turns everybody who disagrees with him into his father. It doesn’t matter whether it’s actually the concrete representation of his father, like Baker, or the voters who vote against staying in Iraq. We have become his father. We are the people he is now defying. He will turn everybody, any authority, anybody who disagrees with him, into a father figure who he’d have to defy.
BuzzFlash: Let me bring up the word “sociopath,” because, as you mentioned, it seems Bush has this affability. Until recently, he came off very well on television. Despite his gaffs, somehow he’s got that Q-quotient as they call it, on television, that overcomes his malapropisms and dysfunctional language, and particularly when he’s in the settings that Rove puts together. I’ve known people who have met him who say, you know, it was hard not to like the guy.
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: Right.
BuzzFlash: Yet he seems to have very little empathy for the situation of sending more G.I.s off to die. He has empathy that’s scripted, but he doesn’t really seem to have any personal empathy.
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: Right. He is very consistent with being a sociopath. I think you’re not just throwing around a term.
BuzzFlash: What does that mean?
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: A sociopath is just what you said -- a person who can be very charming, but psychologically is so massively defended against experiencing guilt that he cannot feel empathy. If you don’t feel guilt, you can’t empathize, because you never can feel concern about having hurt somebody else, or anybody else suffering. Guilt reins in destructive behavior. But if you don’t have any guilt, you don’t have to feel any anxiety or anything that will hold you back in terms of being destructive or being hurtful. And that leads you to being unable to feel empathy, because empathy actually threatens your safety.
If you feel somebody else is in trouble, then you may feel you are obligated to do something about it. That’s something that is anathema to a psychopath, and it’s certainly anathema to Bush. So he is really incapable of feeling empathy. What he has figured out, with the help of his advisors, is to run as a "compassionate conservative" so he looks like a person who’s empathic. And his affability is what fooled a lot of people into making them feel that he really was connected to them, because he’s so charming. That is classic psychopathy.
BuzzFlash: The psychopath or sociopath?
Justin A. Frank, M.D.: Same thing. Psychopath is the old word for sociopath. It’s the same term. But even sociopaths have an unconscious. They have to do something with guilt and with conflict. They’ve wiped it out overtly, so what we are left with is a sociopath. Unconsciously, there is a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear, and fear of shame, and fear of humiliation, and a desperate need to maintain psychic integrity above all else. That’s why he also has no empathy -- because he is desperately devoted, which I wrote at the end of my book and concluded with, to protecting himself more than anything else. That’s ultimately what a sociopath is.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Bush: Psychopath or sociopath?
* gilliard has an interview. In part:
Posted by lukery at 1/07/2007 02:15:00 PM