Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bush: Psychopath or sociopath?

* gilliard has an interview. In part:
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.

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.


noise said...

In addition to the POTUS being a sociopath he is also unqualified (in terms of intellect and foreign policy experience).

Yet we are supposed to believe this is the man who is determining the future of mankind of planet Earth.


steven andresen said...

For the sake of argument, I would ask you to agree that Dr. Frank is correct about the President.

The question I have is about the Press, the military, the people of the United States, foreign leaders, and so on who have seen this guy through various scenarios. Is this sociopathy a subtle problem? Is it something that the people, for example, would recognize if given enough examples?

I'm not sure that enough people would reject the sociopathy that Dr. Frank points us to in the President because I suspect that many of the people share his pathology.

The socialists tell us that if only the workers would find out what was being done to them by the owners, they would rise up and take back the country that is rightfully theirs. The reason the workers don't is because the truth is kept from them, or there are guards to the levers of power that intimidate them.

I think, unfortunately, that in this place, like many places, many of the workers see things the same way as their oppressors. In this way, I think many people see things the same way as the President. So, it is not going to be easy just to expose the President's pathology. You have to be able to argue that the way he is, and the way many people are, in the way they see "the terrorists," for example, is sick. You have to be able to argue that capital punishment, for example, or war, is sick and wrong to people who give reasons why killing people and going to war is just and useful.

I think Dr. Frank oversimplifies the problem we have when he diagnoses the President with some kind of psychological problem. He makes it seem like there are just a few folks who have, unluckily for us, found themselves with power. He suggests that the rest of us are sane in ways that Bush is not and it would take very little arguing to make this distinction. If it were that easy I would not have seen liberals writing about how invading this or that country was a just war.

noise said...

Interesting analysis. I think you are right.

My point is that US policies aren't being implemented by a deranged POTUS. Which means I think Dr. Frank is right about Bush but not right about Bush making these decisions. So it seems we agree that if one wants to describe US policy as that of a sociopath...the application should be on a society wide level.

I confess to being naive. But in my defense I would say I don't have access to all the information. This reminds me of the notion that the average US consumer is full of it because they want the oil but they don't want the guilt that comes with US imperialism. The idea being that US imperialism is intended to keep cheap oil flowing into our SUV's. Is this true? Perhaps to some degree. Then again, there is huge profit motive from employing military solutions. Meaning, why can't US consumers simply pay for the oil instead of paying the MIC billions of dollars because they claim it's the only way to get the oil.

I would add that this is a complicated issue (involving ethics, politics and psychology) and I have of course oversimplified.

lukery said...

thnx guys - fp's (late)

Causal said...

Well, our chance to convince Nancy Pelosi to Impeach Bush/Cheney is this Monday Jan. 15th..

Pelosi most likely said impeachment was "off the table" to remove any appearance of conflict-of-interest that would arise if she were thrust into the presidency as a result of the coming impeachment.

What we need to do is to pressure Pelosi not to interfere with impeachment maneuverings within her party. Sending her Do-It-Yourself impeachments legitimizes her when she is forced to join the impeachment movement in the future.

Sacks and sacks of mail are about to arrive in Nancy Pelosi's office initiating impeachment via the House of Representative's own rules this Monday January 15th. This legal document is as binding as if a State or if the House itself passed the impeachment resolution (H.R. 635).

There's a little known and rarely used clause of the "Jefferson Manual" in the rules for the House of Representatives which sets forth the various ways in which a president can be impeached. Only the House Judiciary Committee puts together the Articles of Impeachment, but before that happens, someone has to initiate the process.That's where we come in. In addition to a House Resolution (635), or the State-by-State method, one of the ways to get impeachment going is for individual citizens like you and me to submit a memorial. has created a new memorial based on one which was successful in impeaching a federal official in the past. You can find it on their website as a PDF.

You can initiate the impeachment process and simultaneously help to convince Pelosi to follow through with the process. Do-It-Yourself by downloading the memorial, filling in the relevant information (your name, state, etc.), and sending it in. Be a part of history.

lukery said...

thnx causal - frontpaged