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Political and Social Commentary by Dave Satre

The Unstable White House
An Examination of America’s Leaders

Alcoholism, depression, bipolar disorders, hypochondria, social phobias, psychotic behavior. Are these typical characteristics of America’s leaders? Apparently so. And I’m not just talking about the Bush administration!

According to a recent study performed by Duke University, about half of the American presidents that occupied the White House through the Nixon presidency suffered from some form of mental illness. The report claims 24 percent of the presidents suffered from clinical depression. Eight percent were alcoholics, eight percent suffered from bipolar disorders and another eight percent suffered from anxiety.

Ten of the presidents exhibited abnormal behavior during their terms of office and the researchers believe it affected the execution of their duties. Not all of these presidents suffered their symptoms during their terms in office, but their strength, stability and character are questionable and we, as a nation need to more closely examine the abilities of the people we elect to all offices, not just the presidency.

G.W. Bush was not included in the study, but the man is an admitted alcoholic, drug addict, born-again Christian and his behavior certainly seems psychotic at times. History may likely prove him to be the most unstable of all American presidents. He certainly lacks the perspective that we should expect from a man in the most powerful position in the world. Bush has led such a protected life of luxury that he only sees the world from the advantage of the rich. He and his administration thoroughly believe they have the right to lie daily to the American public because they are above the law, are brighter and know better what is best for this country.

In other words, the Bush Regime is just as unstable as the Enron executives who believed they were “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” They’re all alike. They think they’re smarter than everybody else, but if they were actually that smart they would know better. We all do!

The fall of Enron is merely an example of when unstable people are in charge and don’t listen to good advice. The Cheneys, Rumsfelds, Roves and Ashcrofts are cut from the same cloth. They really aren’t as smart as they think they are and they believe they’re above the law. This is dangerous. These are the worst examples of people who should not have obtained power.

Psychiatrist Justin Frank, a professor in George Washington University’s department of psychiatry, claims GW exhibits the classic symptoms of a paranoid schizophrenic. Frank’s book, Bush On the Couch, claims Bush is delusional and believes he is both omnipotent and above the law. He believes Bush has a medical condition that causes him to invent enemies and then destroy them to demonstrate his power. Frank claims Bush’s problems are the results of untreated alcoholism in his youth, his fundamentalist religious beliefs and a love-hate relationship with his father.

There is the argument, of course, that great leaders are not normal. Sometimes it’s their eccentricity that brings them to leadership --- sometimes its outright psychotic behavior. The Hitlers and Saddam Husseins are excellent examples of psychosis that led to power, but eventually their downfall.

Ulysses S. Grant, who led the North to victory in the Civil War, was an unstable personality. He was an alcoholic and suffered from several phobias, particularly the fear of blood. Unusual for a military man, to be sure. Lincoln, who is among our most revered presidents, suffered from depression and exhibited psychotic behavior. Richard Nixon's alcohol abuse was out of control while he was in office and, along with the blatant corruption of his administration, contributed to his downfall.

The Duke University report lists the mental illnesses of 18 presidents. Here are some of the major ones:

  Bipolar Disorder
    John Adams
Theodore Roosevelt
Lyndon Johnson
    James Madison
John Quincy Adams
Franklin Pierce
Abraham Lincoln
Rutherford B. Hayes
James Garfield
Woodrow Wilson
Calvin Coolidge
Herbert Hoover
Dwight Eisenhower
    Franklin Pierce
Ulysses S. Grant
Richard Nixon
    Thomas Jefferson
Ulysses S. Grant
Calvin Coolidge

The Duke report employed the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV, which is used extensively by psychiatrists to examine symptoms and determine the existence of mental illness. The report, titled Mental Illness in U.S. Presidents between 1776 and 1974, was published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.

More info:

The Atlantic Monthly June 2006

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