Friday, December 09, 2005

Unfit to Lead 


Here's to You, America: Bush's Most Public Secret

After this drink I'm going to stop. I promise, so help me God. These two sentences are familiar to anyone who is an alcoholic, has been an alcoholic, or has known an alcoholic. Four generations ago Eugene O'Neill portrayed a group of alcoholics promising to themselves and each other simply that they would go for a walk around the block – tomorrow.

Fast forward to December 2005 and the recently described Bush Syndrome, and look at one of its fundamental characteristics -- alcoholism. George Bush, by all counts, is an untreated alcoholic who supposedly has not been drinking for close to twenty years. Now he has traded in promises never to drink for newer, more appealing ones -- such as promising to protect America. While not so simple as taking a walk around the block, the "ism" in alcoholism is unchanged.

He promises and doesn't deliver. Partly this is because Bush's brain is compromised either by past long-term alcohol abuse or by having started drinking again. In either case Bush remains untreated. Paul Krugman wrote (December 9) that Bush "seems to have forgotten his promise" to reconstruct both Iraq and the Gulf Coast. That is true -- alcoholics do not remember promises they make. They do not even remember what the problems were in the first place -- hence no new staff members for FEMA.

If an alcoholic has the slightest disinclination, he won't follow through. Thus Bush only follows up when he is running for office or on a treadmill. But that's it. Former administration officials describe Bush as detached. Of course he is -- nobody is more detached than someone immersed in a post-alcohol haze. This is why Bush doesn't make public appearances unless his audience is heavily vetted. What strikes me is that none of the critics who have remarked on his behavior link it to alcoholism. They behave like enablers, frightened that the person in charge might be drinking.

Untreated alcoholics confabulate; they make things up as they go along. For them, reality has little influence. Bush has a fixed idea about how well things are going in Iraq and contradictory information has no effect. Writers like Dowd and Suskind elegantly describe Bush's disconnection from reality. But again, neither observer questions whether the major factor driving his capacity to dismiss the world is his alcoholism.

These two central processes -- empty promises and confabulation -- ultimately converge. The promise itself becomes a confabulation; something made up to suit the moment and then believed as if it had already happened. It's not that wishing makes it so. For Bush, as for all alcoholically challenged people, promising makes it so.

It remains essential that Bush be psychologically tested -- now. It is already late in the game for a successful war on terror, for protecting the environment, health care and education, for protecting our civil liberties. And government corruption is rampant at all levels. Thus it is my ever increasing medical judgment that unless his mental functions are evaluated, President Bush must be contained by Congress. For example all appointments, such as Judge Alito, should be blocked until he is deemed mentally competent -- radical political leanings notwithstanding -- to govern.

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