Is George W. Bush psychotic?
In this essay, we will deal with the question of whether the current President of the United States suffers from psychosis. Psychosis is a form of mental illness that is relatively benign, in that those who suffer from it do not necessarily pose a great danger to others. Victims of psychosis are generally considered by those who know them to be peculiar, eccentric, bizarre or just plain wacko. They obviously need professional help, but for the most part they are harmless. Whether psychosis is acceptable in the person who holds the highest office in the land is a question that has never needed to be asked in the United States, until now.
In a follow-up essay, we will consider whether the President is a psychopath. Psychopaths take mental illness to a higher level. They are people who do pose a very great danger to others. We will save that discussion for the next essay.
Not a rare condition
The first thing to realize is that mental illness is not the least bit unusual. There is lots of it around, and it is a rare family indeed that has not been touched by it. Last June, the Washington Post reported on a study called called the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. The study was the largest and most detailed survey of the nation’s mental health ever undertaken. The Post said the study as an “exhaustive government-sponsored effort, based on in-depth interviews with more than 9,000 randomly selected Americans.” The study found that ” One-quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully a quarter of those had a “serious” disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function day to day.”
[ See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/06/AR2005060601651.html]
But, what precisely does the term “psychosis” mean?
Psychosis, in psychological language, is a condition in which a person isn’t in contact with reality like most people.
Psychosis can take many forms, it can include:
â€¢ Having beliefs that aren’t based on reality (delusions)
â€¢ Sensing things that aren’t really there (hallucinations)
â€¢ Living in a private (separate and imaginary) reality
â€¢ Having problems thinking clearly
â€¢ Having problems speaking in clear, meaningful sentences
â€¢ Not realizing that there is anything wrong with oneself (lack of insight)
In psychiatry there are a number of disorders that come under the general title of the psychoses. They all differ in symptoms, but all are joined in the fact that the person is in someway not experiencing reality like most people.
[Adapted from http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/simplepsych/psychosis.html]
Now, let’s compare George W. Bush’s public behavior with the symptoms above.
1- Delusions: Channeling God
Ron Suskind, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, quotes other Republicans who have concluded that Bush believes â€“ or at least gives the impression he believes â€“ that his judgments are directed by God.
â€œI think a light has gone off for people whoâ€™ve spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct heâ€™s always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do,â€ said Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official in the first Bush administration. â€œHe truly believes heâ€™s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.â€ [emphasis added; See â€œWithout a Doubt,â€ New York Times Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004]
Believing that you are a messenger of God is a classical example of a delusion.
2- Hallucinations: Hearing Voices
President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq – and create a Palestinian State, a BBC series reveals.
Nabil Shaath says: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …” And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” And by God I’m gonna do it.'”
[BBC News, “God told me to invade Iraq, Bush tells Palestinian ministers,” October 6. 2005]
Hearing voices is textbook example of having hallucinations. President Bush is able to quote verbatim what he heard God say to him. God even calls the President by his first name.
3- Imaginary Reality: Bushworld
Does the President live in is own unique, personally customized version of reality? The following interview is from Democracy Now!
Wednesday, January 21st, 2004 Arundhati Roy, Hans Von Sponeck Respond to Bush’s State of the Union on Iraq
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Hans von Sponeck, in Geneva. Hans von Sponeck is the Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations. In the late 1990’s, he was the coordinator of the humanitarian mission in Iraq. Welcome to Democracy Now!
HANS VON SPONECK: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to president Bush, saying nine months of negotiations involving the U.S and Britain succeeded with Libya. 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not.
HANS VON SPONECK: My immediate reaction is that there is truly a frightening disconnect between the rhetoric of president Bush and the reality, as it exists, as we see it, as you know it, as we know it in Europe, as the Iraqis know it, the reality outside the White House. I would say that president Bush’s assessment of that reality is really deeply, deeply flawed. One is presented with facts which really are fantasies. Very, very dangerous fantasies. One wonders whether there is an element of psychosis here in the White House. He still makes the points, which are long refuted by both United States institutions and internationally. For example, the issue of Iraq and al Qaeda, he repeats this – he refers to the Kaye report, even though his advisers, including Condoleezza Rice should have carefully read the Carnegie Foundation report which clearly makes the point that this was hype, there was nothing in that, there is no active biological, chemical or nuclear program that they have discovered, and it is cynical when one hears words like democracy is taking hold in Iraq, when day after day one sees the opposite. Only two days ago, Amy, there were 100,000 people on the streets in Baghdad. What were they asking for? They were asking for free elections, not forced selections.
Forced selections is exactly what Mr. Bremer and Ambassador Greenstock tried to suggest for support to the secretary general when they met him on Monday. The world in president Bush’s mind is changing for the better. Well, Arundhati Roy will tell you how it went in the Social Forum, but this morning here in Switzerland, Mary Robinson referred to the fact that the international scorecard on life for [the] human race doesn’t look very good. And she said that having also just come back from Bombay, and Cancun, the difficult negotiations in Mexico on free trade. Well, they have shown very well that this world isn’t changing for the better, and if Mr. Bush believes it, then he lives in an unreal world. And maybe one more sentence here on the situation in Iraq. He continues to argue that it is only a few remnants of a thug called Saddam Hussein, and foreign terrorists that are responsible for the trouble that the poor U.S. G.Is and others are facing in Iraq. Well, that is another very, very dangerous illusion, because the anger of the Iraqi people, and I’m speaking regularly to Iraq from here in Geneva, the anger is widespread. And it’s getting wider and wider every day. So, the State of the Union speech, to me, was an example, a classic example of a self-serving statement that was void of reality, as we know it, as you know it, as many Americans are knowing it.
4- Confused Thinking: We’ll all be dead.
” In one of those rare moments when Bush actually appeared to provide something resembling a direct answer to a direct question, Bush may have let his psychosis (and the psychosis of his neocon advisors) slip into public view, not much of that psychosis and only for the moment, but enough to allow a reasonable appreciation of the deep trouble into which Bush has plunged a frightened and frighteningly naive American citizenry. Conservative Americans thought they were voting for a good religious family man in government and they got a Jim Jones.
George W. Bush, when asked by Bob Woodward “how is history likely to judge your Iraq war?” replied, “History, we don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” (Woodward Shares War Secrets, CBS News, 60 Minutes, April 18, 2004). [emphasis added]
“It is possible that Bush’s comment “We’ll all be dead” might only be subconsciously related to his belief in apocalypse. Perhaps he only meant that by the time “history” is written, we’ll all be dead of prevailing disease and old age. If that is the case, the man remains a complete idiot. History did not wait for Hitler to die before condemning him, nor did the Republican party wait for Clinton to die before condemning him. History will not wait for George either. The man is already in deep trouble everywhere but in his half of America.
“It is not clear just what Bush meant with his remark if taken outside the context of apocalypse. It is more clear that Bush does not know what he meant either, since his remark doesn’t make any sense outside of the context of apocalypse.
“We’ll all be dead.” By what empirical and historical evidence does this ill-educated, inarticulate Howdy Doody arrive at this conclusion? This may not be a very correct way to refer to the appointed president of the United States, but do you realize what this man (trained at America’s finest universities) is saying? “We’ll all be dead.” Cute little children in Japan, wonderfully bright students in Ukraine, stressed out housewives in America, marvelous old gentlemen in Norway … all dead. Just ask George W. Bush. By any sane criteria, this man and his administration are religiously psychotic.
“All thoughtful and caring American citizens ought be afraid, very afraid. Bush is likely inviting us to the People’s Temple for a glass of grape Kool-Aide.”
Dr. Gerry Lower, “We’ll All Be Dead” [ See http://www.opednews.com/lower042904_dead.htm]
5- Confused Speech: Bushisms
Very little needs to be said about this. George W. Bush mangling of syntax is so famous that a neologism has been created for it. There are eight (count them, eight!) published collections of “Bushisms.”
[Also search for Bushisms at: http://www.amazon.com]
6- Distorted Self-Awareness: Emperor over All
With George W. Bush it is not simply a matter of not realizing that there is anything wrong with himself, in fact, in this regard, Bush goes to the opposite extreme. He appears to have delusions of grandeur and infallibility.
“I’m the commander… see, I don’t need to explain. I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
Woodward’s BUSH AT WAR [see http://bushwatch.org/ego.htm]
“One cannot imagine F.D.R., before declaring war on Japan, or even Ronald Reagan before Grenada, pumping a fist and saying of himself, “Feel good” as President Bush did before he announced the beginning of the Iraq war.” –Susan Faludi, 03.30.03
Reacting to Bush’s vow to continue spying on Americans, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said the president’s remarks were “breathtaking in how extreme they were.” Feingold said it was “absurd” that Bush said he relied on his inherent power as president to authorize the wiretaps. “If that’s true, he doesn’t need the Patriot Act because he can just make it up as he goes along. I tell you, he’s President George Bush, not King George Bush.” [Associated Press, 12/17/2005}
Civil libertarians say the latest revelations add to their frustration with the Bush administration. “If we are a nation of laws, then the president must be bound by the rule of law,” said Lisa Graves, senior counsel at the ACLU in Washington. “This is clearly in violation of FISA and a violation of the Constitution. The president, no matter who he is, does not have the power to decide which laws he will follow.” [The Los Angeles Times, 12/17/05]
Conclusion: A Psychologist Offers Her Professional Services
Dear President Bush,
At this time of national crisis, I would like to offer my assistance to you.
As a practicing psychologist for more than thirty years, it has become clear to me that your mental health has been seriously neglected. In the interest of our nation, I would like to offer my services as a psychologist to you on a “pro bono” basis. It would, after all, be for the good of the country.
Of course, it would be presumptuous of me to attempt to diagnose your emotional difficulties without meeting you face to face. However, I believe that I have had sufficient opportunity to observe you to put forth a few hypotheses of “trouble” areas with which you seem to need assistance.
First, and of great concern, is evidence of delusional thinking — a symptom of psychosis. The delusion that seems most evident is that bombing a people into submission is a strong foundation for democracy, and for generating good will in a nation. There is also the delusion that Saddam Hussein poses an imminent threat to the USA. (Or was that just a lie, suggesting psychopathic deviance?)
Another symptom that many people have noted is disorganized and incoherent speech, which, unfortunately, can be another symptom of psychosis. Confused thinking is also a problem for you, as demonstrated by the idea that our reason for going to war is Iraq’s defiance of the UN, yet you are defying the UN by going to war. This suggests rather muddled cognitive functioning.
These symptoms suggest that I would feel that a referral to a psychiatrist for medication might be indicated. However, your history of multiple substance abuse should lead to caution in the use of certain psychotropic medications.
While there are some indicators of psychosis, there are also many signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which include arrogance and grandiosity, as well as a need for unlimited power. There is also a lack of empathy for others, and, in your case, no regard for them at all if they speak another language. You suffer from an excessive need for admiration and a sense of entitlement. Evidence for that includes your refusal to speak before the European Union unless you could be guaranteed a standing ovation. Your actions regarding attacking Iraq in spite of negative world reaction reveal your arrogance in a clear and obvious way.
Emotional immaturity has been in evidence as well. The tendency toward black and white thinking is one sign of emotional immaturity. Statements that divide the world into good and evil, and “you’re with us or against us” reflect thinking typical of a young child. Emotional growth and development is known to be stunted by substance abuse. Could that be what happened with you?
Problems with the truth are also in evidence, as in such statements as “I am a man of peace”, “I am a uniter (sic) not a divider” and “Iâ€™m hopeful that we can avoid a war.” None of these statements enjoy the support of your behavior. While a certain amount of lying is expected from politicians, yours seems to be well in excess of the norm.
Although I have a busy schedule, I am confident that my current patients, in the service of their country, would be willing to change their schedules to accommodate you.
I also need to warn you that I cannot guarantee relief from all the above symptoms, as personality disorders are notoriously difficult to treat. Therefore, in order to pursue your recovery, it might be wise to consider resigning from the stresses of your current position to devote your time to your psychological well being.
March 25, 2003
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
“Has Bush lost his reason?” by Andrew Stephen: The Observer, 8/ 17/ 2004 [http://www.crisispapers.org/topics/bush.htm]
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“So George, how do you feel about your mom and dad?”
Psychologist Oliver James analyses the behaviour of the American president
The Guardian 9/2/2003, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1033904,00.html]
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THE MADNESS OF GEORGE W. BUSH: A Reflection Of Our Collective Psychosis
by Paul Levy [Click here to download a PDF version of this article.]
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