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Bush on the Couch

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The Clinical Diagnosis
By Susan Andersen, professor of psychology, NYU

As haunting as events in Iraq have been, debate in the White House remains in perpetual lockdown. This may in fact mirror what goes on inside the president’s mind. This same lockdown may exert a chokehold on inconsistent thought, complexity, and contradiction, sequestering such things away in quarantine to enable an unsullied inner confidence and a fixed worldview impervious to external facts. When people are under threat, they tend to hold ever more tightly to their pre-existing beliefs. Self-esteem can be inflated as well, leaving one emboldened against criticism. This pattern is all the more profound among people who show signs of “narcissistic personality.” These individuals are especially reactive to dips in adoration and yet they regularly fail to take others into account. They are prone to manipulative, domineering behavior, even though they can also be smooth and alluring. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that Bush has these tendencies. He shows signs of an “authoritarian personality” as well, which involves a special vulnerability to stature and power, to demonstrations of force, and also a profound personal need for power, order, and control. This helps account for how deeply enthralled he apparently is by the powerful and elusive vice-president.


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