Joe Lieberman Is “Unbalanced”

LiebermanAccording to five clinical psychiatrists who describe themselves as being politically aware, Joe Lieberman’s behaviour over the last few weeks of the Senate health care debate reveals numerous signs that he is increasingly “unbalanced.”

All five caution that, while it is difficult to make a specific diagnosis without seeing a patient in their office, Lieberman’s public statements show growing evidence of an individual who is disconnected with pieces of the reality around them.

“If somebody called me and described the symptoms in their spouse that Joe Lieberman is displaying, I’d recommend they come in for an appointment or two so an initial assessment could be made,” says Dr. Stanley Shapiro, who retired recently from his practice and says he is a lifelong Democrat. “From what I’ve watched on television and read in the papers, he’s acting clinically unbalanced.”

At the same time, senior Senate aides from both sides of the aisle report that while Lieberman has always been unpredictable and difficult to work with, it’s a trait that became magnified after he lost his primary challenge to Ned Lamont in 2006.

The psychiatrists all spoke in their professional capacity and, to ensure I wasn’t inadvertently interviewing only doctors who tilt left, I asked each to identify their political views. Of the five, one described their views as progressive or Democratic, two say they lean towards “conservative” or “Republican” and one refused to indicate their political position. Some would speak for attribution but others requested anonymity, citing professional concerns.

“He contradicts himself from day to day,” notes Dr. Irvin Wolkoff, citing as an example Lieberman’s statement last Friday that he would wait for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” the then-compromise version of the Senate health care bill before deciding whether to support the bill – and then appearing on Face the Nation two days later voicing die-hard opposition.

Dr. Wolkoff, a self-described conservative, summed up Lieberman in two words.

“He’s meshugener,” the psychiatrist stated matter-of-factly, using the Yiddish word for “crazy person.” Asked if this is a personal or professional opinion, Dr. Wolkoff replied half-jokingly, “maybe a bit of both.”

In other words, no one – people working on the Hill, President Obama or people in The White House, voters back in Connecticut or cable news’ talking heads – should be surprised that it’s impossible to negotiate with Lieberman on health care or anything else substantive. He’s simply acting crazy.

The Beytrayed’s Revenge
The question is why; what might explain Lieberman’s behaviour?

“No doubt, Lieberman felt betrayed by voters in 2006,” says a Boston analyst who does not want her name used, “and this is his unconscious acting out a sort of ‘revenge of the betrayed.’ I see it frequently in my practice with patients who are angry that their spouse had an affair or who lost their job in circumstances they consider unfair.”

Several other psychiatrists echo her judgment.

“When he felt cornered, he even abandoned his own long-held policies,” states a Chicago psychiatrist under assurances of anonymity. “He’s favored a Medicare buy-in since 2000 but dropped (his support) in a day because a liberal Democrat in the House said it was a good idea.

“This is the mark of someone grappling with major psychological issues,” the politically independent doctor concludes. “He needs help and, meantime, he’s damaging himself and the nation.”

Hillside Manner
Senate staffers are as worried about Lieberman as are mental health professionals.

A half-dozen senior aides interviewed for this article expressed varying degrees of frustration and despair in dealing with the Senator and his staff. None allowed their name to be used because they’re not authorised to speak to the media on-the-record.

“He’s always been a problem child,” says a senior staff member of a Republican senator, “but in the last few years Senator Lieberman often seems disconnected with what is happening around him.”

When that occurs, said another who works for a long-time Democratic senator, “he lashes out.”

charley-james.jpgIn her Friday column in the New York Times, Gail Collins, who has covered Lieberman since the days when he was a Connecticut state senator, is more colourfully blunt:

“Observers who have known him for a long time feel as though they’re living out a scene in a science-fiction movie when the guy who’s just been bitten by the vampire-moose comes home and sits down to dinner, unaware that he’s sprouting antlers.”

Charley James
The Progressive Curmudgeon

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  1. says

    Yes, it’s sometimes entertaining and psychologically satisfying to blame an actual or alleged crazy-man-du-jour, but what is really crazy is that would-be ‘progressives’ and indeed other concerned citizens – presumably believers in democracy and in rational public policy decision – tolerate an oligarchic constitutional set-up that every day belies our ideal of ‘a government of laws, not of men’.

    Rational and democratic government should not and need not depend on the sanity (or not) of one or a few key personalities. We need and should demand policy decisions by citizen juries, not by an all-powerful elite of long-term official poohbahs (whether mass-elected or appointed) who have such power that we have to worry about each one’s individual sanity.

  2. Joe Walsh says

    There is much talk about the sanity of Sen. **joe lieberman; I’ve wondered about this ever since he campaigned for Sen. John McCain and that other lunatic from Alaska. I agree joe has some serious mental issues to deal with, but my concerns are how does one senator stop the work of the Senate repeatedly? Where is **harry reid in all of this chaos?

    harry reid must be replaced as majority leader, democratic senators keep coming to his aid as the Senate comes to a complete halt, nothing is getting through that the republicans don’t want and they only have 40 votes. What we need is someone to say to joe, you’re fired—-no more Chairmanship, no more big office, and that parking space you used to have—gone!

    When a new Senator, Al Franken refused to give little joe more time on the senate floor we all cheered, we called people up, we told strangers, “Did you see what Al did to little joe?” Senator reid was given the credit for this move, I don’t care whose idea it was, it was a moment. We need a leader in the senate who will tell the democrats who are blocking the health care bill, you vote with the republicans against letting this bill come up for a vote, you are out of the democratic caucus, if you have a chairmanship say bye, bye.

    harry reid and Obama’s chief of staff, rahm emanuel must be removed from power, joe lieberman must be shunned and put in a position that his staff won’t talk to him, he must be stripped of every perk he has gained in the last few years. Hardball? No this is survival time for the democratic party.

    Will the democrats do any of these things? Hell no and it is not because they don’t have a spine. The democrats will not act because in the past it has served them well to let the republicans look like the party of corruption, and by putting little joe out there to take the heat, well, it does work for them. We get screwed but it works for Chucky and his buddies.

    I would like to see every politician who appears on TV to talk about his/her position on any issue that they wear a sign saying how much money they have taken from an interested party. Something like this:

    ** chuck shummer, I took $2,000,000.00 from the financial sector.” As we watch this guy try to sell us on how hard he is working to control the abuses of the financial sector, his sign would wave just a little back and forth; that would be good. (chucky boy is #1 out of 100 senators to receive money from the banks etc.)

    The new year is coming and new opportunities will present themselves to us all. Will we see the light or continue thinking we have representatives that care about us? See you in the streets!

    “To the Bastille?”

    Joe Walsh, Lone Vet
    Individuals for Justice
    Veterans Against Torture
    VVAW, VFJ.
    Portland, Oregon

    ** Refuse to capitalize out of disrespect and/or disgust.


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