Bush on the Couch, the bio/analysis by Dr. Justin Frank, is certainly not conclusive in its theories critical of GWBush. Any analysis done by long distance, without direct contact with the subject, is immediately suspect. And of course Right-Wing psychoanalysts would never use that tactic:
Krauthammer said that Vice President Dick Cheney "did the manly thing" in withholding information from the public concerning his accidental shooting of lawyer Harry Whittington during a hunting excursion in Texas on February 11.
Charles Krauthammer, on FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, on May 26:
Krauthammer repeated the unsubstantiated assertion, advanced by the Bush administration, that terrorists would like President George W. Bush to lose the November election. Krauthammer wrote: "Of course the terrorists want Bush defeated. How can anyone pretend otherwise?"It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again.
Regardless, Frank's book notes some troubling episodes, ones that, if true, might make anyone drink heavily. Quotes from the book, through wikipedia:
George Bush's next-eldest sibling, Robin, died of leukemia at the age of three, when he was seven years old himself. Frank argues that this loss, and the way his parents handled it, has had a lasting impact on Bush's psyche.
At the time she became ill, Robin was the future president's only sibling (although Jeb Bush was born before she died) and a favorite playmate. His parents never told him that she was sick, although he was asked to stop playing with her. Only after her death did they disclose to him her illness, which had lasted longer than doctors expected it to and had led the Bushes on a frantic quest back East to find a specialist who could treat her. These efforts kept them away from their son for long stretches of time, and he was not present when Robin died, nor at her burial.
After the service in Connecticut, Barbara and George H.W. Bush returned to Houston the next day. There was no further attempt at closure or a protracted mourning process, in keeping with WASP mores of the time.
Frank argues that the apparent abruptness of his little sister's passing and the lack of any way to deal with it have had a strong impact on George W. Bush's later personal development. Barbara Bush has since said the way she handled Robin's death with her son was one of the few mistakes she made as a parent. Frank documents several incidents in Bush's life related to Robin's death at various points through Bush's childhood and adolesence.
. . .
Later on in his teen years, he began drinking and eventually developed the alcoholism which would plague him for much of the rest of his life. Frank asserts that Bush was a very heavy drinker from the age of 15 until the age of 40. While alcoholism can have many origins, Frank argues that the unresolved pain from his sister's passing could be one motivator for this self-medication. Frank describes several incidents during Bush's presidency leading him to suspect that Bush resumed drinking during one or more of his many long vacations from the White House.
Bush's struggles with his father's shadow have been well-documented -- he was never the athlete or student that George H.W. Bush had distinguished himself as. Bush's military career was lackluster as well, where his father had earned medals and was considered a war hero. Frank argues that Bush may subconsciously blame his parents, his father in particular, for taking his sister away from him, aggravating an already difficult father-son relationship.
Another direct quote from Frank's book:
Robin died in New York in October 1953; her parents spent the next day golfing in Rye, attending a small memorial service the following day before flying back to Texas. George learned of his sister's illness only after her death, when his parents returned to Texas, where the family remained while the child's body was buried in a Connecticut family plot.
Golfing? WTF?!? And didn't attend the burial! These are some coldass people. On some levels, GWBush wasn't given much of an upbringing. But who knows? Some people grow up in misery and rise to greatness. Others grow up with a silver spur in their mouth and turn out, well, special.
From Jeffrey St. Clair writing in Counterpunch we learn more about Mom:
His mother, Barbara, is a bitter and grouchy gorgon, who must have frightened her own offspring as they first focused their filmy eyes onto her stern visage.She is a Pierce, a descendent of Franklin, the famously incompetent president, patron of Nathaniel Hawthorne and avowed racist, who joined in a bizarre cabal to overthrow Abraham Lincoln. (For more on this long neglected episode in American history check out Charles Higham's excellent new book Murdering Mr. Lincoln.)
Here's more about Babs:
Understandably, George Sr. spent much of his time far away from Barbara Bush's icy boudoir, indulging in a discreet fling or two while earning his stripes as a master of the empire, leaving juvenile George to cower under the unstinting commands of his cruel mother, who his younger brother Jeb dubbed "the Enforcer." This woman's veins pulse with glacial melt. According to Neil Bush, his mother was devoted to corporal punishment and would "slap around" the Bush children. She was known in the family as "the one who instills fear." She still does...with a global reach.
How wicked is Barbara Bush? Well, she refused to attend her own mother's funeral. And the day after her five-year old daughter Robin died of leukemia Barbara Bush was in a jolly enough mood to spend the afternoon on the golf course. Revealingly, Mrs. Bush kept Robin's terminal illness a secret from young George, a stupid and cruel move which provided one of the early warps to his psyche.
Overblown rhetoric, but it still paints a picture that ain't pretty. This is the same loving Mom who famously said this:
...dismissing the escalating body count of American soldiers in Iraq. "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many," the Presidential Mother snapped. "It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
Yeah. I'm guessing she won't be helping with bandages at Walter Reed, or going on any USO tours any time soon.
St. Clair continues, name checking Dr. Frank:
Frank, author of Bush on the Couch, zeroes in on the crucial first five years of W's existence, where three factors loom over all others: an early trauma, an absent father and an abusive mother. It is a recipe for the making of a dissociated megalomaniac. Add in a learning disability (dyslexia) and a brain bruised by booze and coke and you have a pretty vivid portrait of the Bush psyche.
Lovely imagery, that.
Other books seek to answer the question of GWBush's humanity, or lack thereof. From Salon:
Nevertheless, if you can hack your way through the underbrush, "Bush on the Couch" brings together a lot of provocative information, and some genuinely enlightening hypotheses, from which the resourceful reader can assemble a portrait of Bush that accounts for his seeming contradictions. Combine it with Peter Singer's "The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush," a clear-headed and superbly reasoned dissection of Bush's much-touted morality, and the forthcoming "Personality, Character and Leadership in the White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents," a comparative evaluation of Bush and his predecessors in the office, by Steven J. Rebenzer and Thomas R. Faschingbauer, and the portrait gains more heft.
What emerges is the image of a man shaped by rage and fear. Frank, who subscribes to the variant of psychoanalysis formulated by Melanie Klein, has his own ideas about where Bush's anger and anxiety come from. Some of those ideas are silly and difficult to support, like the belief that newborn infants blame themselves for their expulsion from the paradise of the womb, and feel both guilt about and fear of their own destructive capabilities. Others make sense, like the probability that Bush, who surely experienced the usual sibling rivalry, felt some unconscious guilt over the death of his younger sister Robin, from leukemia, when he was 7 and she was 3.
Bush's parents dealt with Robin's death by squelching any expression of grief; there was no funeral and they played golf the day after she died. This, according to Frank, is a key example of the family's approach to all such painful emotions, and the result was to distort and cripple the psyche of their firstborn son. Frank provides an elaborate description of how the healthy process of psychological "integration" is supposed to work, some of which is based on such unconvincing Kleinian theories as the "good mother" and the "bad mother." But in general, his thesis is credible: If a child's parents teach him that his feelings of suffering, fear, weakness and rage are so unacceptable that they can't even be acknowledged, he is likely to spend his life projecting those feelings onto other people and punishing them for it. It's one of the ways bullies are minted.
While Mommie Dearest receives most of criticism, not much is said about "Poppy" as a father figure, except that he managed to succesfully do virtually everything little GW could never do, except, you know, that Saddam thing:
George W. would find plenty of opportunities to practice the art of projection as he grew up. Frank, who is always on firmest footing when he's working from concrete biographical material, points out that from an early age, George W. Bush consistently failed in everything at which his father excelled. He got poor grades at the same schools where his father did well, and was a disaster in the same industry (oil) where his father made his fortune. His father was a varsity athlete; George W. had to settle for the cheerleading squad. His father was a torpedo plane pilot in World War II; George W. was a desultory member of the Texas Air National Guard.
Frank's psychoanalytic training pays off in one aspect by giving him an eye for the eloquent detail. There's George W.'s first, abortive engagement at 20, the same age at which his father married. And then there's George W. celebrating his role in the purchasing of the Texas Rangers by printing up baseball cards with his picture on them, a pathetically transparent effort to erase the fact that "he could never be the baseball star his father was." Even the exhaustively analyzed "Mission Accomplished" charade on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 takes on new meaning when you interpret it as a "pantomime of [George W.'s] father's war heroism."
Some observers have read George W.'s obsession with ousting Saddam Hussein as motivated by revenge for Saddam's attempted assassination of his father. It could also be seen as the determination to pull off something that his father failed to achieve. But dig a little deeper and it also looks like an attempt to exorcise what must be one nasty case of Oedipal resentment. By Frank's formula, families like the Bushes, where difficult emotions are banished, produce children who cast other people as the symbols of their own unintegrated negative urges and feelings: "I don't want to kill my father, he does, and to prove that I'm devoid of such bad impulses, I'll take him out."
The killer awoke before dawn
He put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived
And then he paid a visit to his brother
And then he walked on down the hall
And he came to a door
And he looked inside
I want to kill you
Mother, I want to. . .
Steve blogs regularly at SteveAudio.blogspot.com