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Book Review: 'Bush on the Couch'
A fascinating psychoanalysis of President Bush

By Pablo Mayhew

In “Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President,” esteemed psychoanalyst and professor of psychiatry Dr. Justin A. Frank analyzes the motivations that drive George W. Bush’s decisions as president, and explains how Bush’s core thoughts are corrupted by a psychic imbalance that has plagued him since well before he reached adolescence.

Through the science of applied psychoanalysis, Frank dismantles, layer by layer, the enigmatic fortress surrounding the Bush family, and illuminates the familial factors responsible for Bush’s psychological and sociological underdevelopment.

In George H.W. Bush, Frank reveals a father who is too often absent from his son’s childhood, a father who — when he was present physically — remained, for the most part, emotionally detached from his young son. Frank describes George W. Bush’s mother, Barbara Bush, as an introspective and insecure disciplinarian, too deeply scarred by the emotional neglect that defined her own upbringing to supply the love her eldest son required. This dearth of affection and understanding, Frank maintains, forced the infant George W. to rely on his own, unavoidably inadequate, “crude tools” to deal with the negative feelings that his parent’s flaws in child-rearing prohibited from integrating into a whole and stable personality.


The significant emotional trauma of young George W.’s life (which, according to Frank, still affects the president’s thoughts and actions) surrounded the death of his sister, Robin, three years his junior. Robin died of leukemia when George W. was just 6 years old. Even more damaging than her death, however, was the complete absence of grief (no funeral rites whatsoever) displayed by the Bushes — a fundamental breakdown, as it were, in the observance of mourning, which children invariably learn from watching parents express grief of their own. Through their failure to impart in their son this vital coping tool, Frank holds that the Bushes, in effect, undermined George W.’s ability to embrace compassion and humanity in even its simplest forms.

Another prominent factor in Frank’s analysis surrounds the reality of George W. Bush’s heavy drinking, and the reborn Christian identity he has adopted to supplant it. Of Bush’s untreated alcoholism, Frank writes: “His abstinence protects him from the crippling effects of heavy alcohol consumption, but he remains in the grip of alcoholic thinking that the program of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), and the regular practice of its principles, helps its members keep at bay.”

Labeling the president a “dry drunk,” Frank goes on to detail how Bush’s fear of falling off the wagon — and the resultant avoidance he displays toward any situation(s) that might threaten his tenuous sobriety — forces him into a rigid and narrow routine of behavior, as well as a continual pattern of escape … that, along with the inflexible dogma espoused by his strict Christian beliefs, forms Bush’s intolerant and paranoid, black-and-white worldview — where he fancies himself a de facto Old West lawman, on the trail of an elusive roaming posse of ne’er-do-well evildoers. Whether he’s fighting terrorism abroad or political foes at home, Frank writes, Bush “shows a rigid inability to consider the idea that anything in his own behavior might qualify as destructive; instead he projects such impulses onto his many perceived persecutors, to maintain his sense of self.” Such self-righteous and pious crusading is at the heart of every decision Bush has made since becoming president in 2001.

In “Bush on the Couch,” Frank presents a compelling argument that George W. Bush is mentally unfit to lead the United States of America. It is an intriguing read with a poignant message — more a clarion call, really, to which all Americans should heed. As Frank writes at the end of the book: “Our sole treatment option — for his benefit and for ours — is to remove President Bush from office. It is up to all of us — Congress, the media and voters—to do so, before it is too late.”

The convincing case Frank builds in “Bush on the Couch” contraindicates a second term as president of the United States of America for George W. Bush. But it will rest with voters to decide whether Bush will continue in his current role. Reading Frank’s enlightening work will provide American voters with a decided advantage to act in their nation’s best defense this November.



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