How are they in terms of their speaking? Are there any lapses of memory? And then how well do they think on their feet? I think that’s a very good test as to how they’re operating mentally.
I agree with Dr. Mariano that the rigors of the campaign do test the clarity of expression and physical stamina of the candidate, however, much that the candidate says and does is the result of careful preparation. The candidate is a character – a creation – whose primary job is to be convincing in the role. The rigors of campaigning can demonstrate acuity, but its theatrics can detract from an honest portrayal of the person.
In 2004, psychoanalyst Dr. Justin Frank published “Bush On The Couch” – a profile of George W. Bush that took two years to complete. Dr. Frank is unusually brave amongst his peers. The following video, also with CNN’s Dr. Gupta, speaks to the apprehension of mental health experts to speak publicly on candidates, with the exception of Dr. Frank.
In Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President Dr. Frank concludes that George W. Bush exhibits signs of megalomania, sadism, and an inability to show real compassion.
From my own lay perspective, after observing Bush for more than 8 years (factoring in the campaign of 1999), Dr. Frank is entirely right. Whether or not these traits would have appeared in a pre-screening psychological profile, I have no idea. But considering the current state of our union under George Bush’s reckless command, a preemptive pre-screening would have been well worth the time.
According to Dr. Frank:
“Part of the reason for the book ["Bush On The Couch"] is also to get the general public to start thinking about the psychology of the people they elect to do the most important job you can have in public life – and we don’t know anything about these people. It’s all packaged. That applies to all the candidates.”
Many supporters of George W. Bush have apparently never observed or acknowledged his megalomania, sadism, immaturity, aggression, recklessness, quick temper, bravado, short attention span, sarcasm, compulsivity, jitteriness, darting eyes, and more. However, tens, if not hundreds of millions have. Such traits are more the manifestations of mental illness than of physical illness. It’s these very manifestations of mental incapacity that have brought this nation to its knees. Surely, a psychological pre-screening by stellar non-partisan professionals, or an acceptable pre-screening tool, or a combination of both, could have identified George W. Bush as mentally unsuitable for his job.
Former President Jimmy Carter recognized the need to formally assess the medical health of a sitting President to determine if s/he has the capacity for the job. According to Jeremy Hsu of LiveScience.com
“He [Carter] pushed for the creation of a “nonpartisan group” of physicians to help decide when a president’s illness affects his judgement. In 1993, Carter published a speech in the Journal of the American Medical Association that led to the formation of the Working Group on Presidential Disability, consisting of scholars and physicians.”
As is often the case with uncomfortable issues in Washington DC, President Carter’s “Working Group” evaporated into the ether and remains there today. Still, it’s good to see a legitimate attempt to monitor the capability of the President. Here’s a further example of the possible incapacitation of a sitting President in another clip with CNN’s Dr. Gupta. This video features staffers of former President Reagan discussing his performance on the job:
Harkening back to my original premise requiring psychological pre-screening of candidates – the fact is, mental health history and current mental health status are as important, if not more so, than medical history and current medical status. Inconceivably, candidates for the Presidency are not legally bound to release their medical or mental health records. However, due to public pressure and “abiding” (more like begrudging) moral responsibility, the records are usually revealed – though sometimes with a caveat as in the case of John McCain, who granted selected reporters just 3 hours to view more than 1100 pages of data.
The bottom line – to the depths of my being, I believe George W. Bush is mentally unfit to hold office. I have a similar opinion of John McCain. I’m also becoming increasingly concerned about Hillary, although to a decidedly lesser degree. My lay observation of Obama, however, is as emotionally steady – which is refreshing and reassuring to me. (Yes, I know you will call me biased).
Dr. Frank’s “Bush On The Couch” didn’t publish until George W. Bush was his second term. I sincerely hope that if valid mental health assessments aren’t instituted, as they should be, for candidates and elected officials, then mental health professionals driven by conscience, will overrule their mandate of silence and speak out in an unbiased way. They need to intercede during the campaign – not after the inauguration – to prevent a similar catastrophic rule. When warning flags are present, they need to be waved!
Dr. Frank defines his particular field of Applied Psychoanalysis as “learning everything possible about a person’s life and applying everything you know about psychology to that person.” With the number of years John McCain has been public, there’s certainly room for that here. Mental health pre-screening is not intended to characterize or discredit a candidate’s ideology, opinion, or stance. It’s intended to rule out significant illness that would impede the capacity to do the job. I, personally, would like to see all candidates for public office assessed for mental health, as well as those who presently hold office. And teachers and administrators, too!
– By Linda Milazzo
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