Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President is a penetrating and utterly disturbing account of the psychological profile of the most powerful man in the world. Through his highly detailed analysis of Bush’s public behavior and statements as well as historical records and biographical information, author Justin A. Frank, M.D., takes us into the mind of the man many Americans voted for and may, after reading this book, wish they hadn’t.
Frank, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center and a teaching analyst at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute, uses the principles of applied psychoanalysis to dissect and deconstruct the mind and behavior behind the man. Frank traces Bush’s history from childhood and examines the roles his parents played on his early development, finding there the early roots of Bush’s inability to manage his emotions, his megalomania, narcissism and total lack of compassion for others. By focusing first on how the young boy Bush was molded by a depressed and disciplinarian mother and a totally absent father, we begin to understand how he came to be the man he is, which enables us to have some empathy and pity for him. We even grieve for Bush when we learn about the effect his sister’s death had on him, and how he was never permitted to mourn for her by parents who felt that grief had no place in their world.
But our empathy is tested when we see how Bush’s early adoration of his absent father and his own difficulties processing his emotions are having a deadly affect today. The author points out how, after the slaughter of American citizens on 9/11, Bush was joking and laughing about how life was pretty good for him, and often he was caught by reporters as having absolutely no emotion or sympathy for the grieving families – instead wanting to talk about his latest achievements as a runner.
As the author clearly details, Bush’s dominant worldview of competitiveness, coldness and restless anxiety bordering on paranoia have led him to where we stand now in history – in a quagmire of a war in Iraq, poverty on the rise at home, and on the brink of environmental collapse. All of these issues seem distant, even unimportant, to Bush, the man, who seems to have no capability of feeling the pain and suffering of others, or even recognizing and fixing his own mistakes. As the author deftly points out, Bush’s inability to take responsibility for his actions and his illusions of omnipotence and grandeur have led him and our nation on a disastrous path. This is a man who laughed when he executed dozens as Texas governor, including a born-again Christian woman who pleaded for forgiveness. So much for a culture of life.
But worse than all that is the fact that Bush, with all the anecdotal evidence of his problems with alcohol, possible ADHD and dyslexia, and his apparent comfort at living outside of the law, still somehow manages to fool so many into thinking he is qualified, both mentally and intellectually, to lead America. Frank proves that to be a false assumption, even a dangerous one, with a compelling portrait of a man who cannot control or handle his own emotions, and projects his anger, violence and cruelty onto others.
Now all of this is really just one man’s opinion, but reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel that everything Frank said resonates as true when you examine the President’s own words and actions and the huge chasm between the two. This is a highly intriguing and often distressing book that digs deeply into the mentality of a world leader whose many dysfunctions mean so much more to us all because they put us all in danger. The real problem, though, is the fact that Bush refuses time and again to confront his own demons even as he is ready and willing to point them out in others. And this deep, abiding insecurity and anxiety is evident in his policies that attack the poor, harm nature, degrade women, perpetuate violence, and basically send our sons and daughters off to die while Bush laughs and jokes about it back in the safety of the White House walls.
Truly chilling. And we, collectively, elected him for another four years. Perhaps we are the ones who need to be analyzed.