Bernard Weiner: Bush Visits His Shrink, Session #2
Bush Visits His Shrink, Session #2
By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
"The last time we met, sir, you had me thrown out of the White House, thinking me too aggressive with my questions. Now you're back for another session. What's changed?"
"It's worse. My world is falling apart. People aren't afraid of me anymore. The whole Plame and Iraq-intelligence and NSA spying stuff is coming at us full force, and we haven't got good answers. I can't sleep well. I have more nightmares. Not even the pills help. My wife, my doctors and my chief adviser more or less ordered me see you again. Otherwise, I wouldn't have come, believe me."
"I do believe you. Many clients in the early stages of counseling get very uncomfortable when the therapist brings up sensitive topics. It's not unusual for them to lash out at the therapist rather than doing the hard work of diving into that uncomfortable area and trying to deal with those issues."
"I don't believe in therapy, doc."
"Do you mean you don't believe it exists? Or that it doesn't work, at least that it wouldn't help you?"
"I've gotten to where I am today on the basis of my will and belief in myself, and I see no reason to question myself now."
"But you seem to be suggesting that you've lost your hold over people after years of doing what you're always done. So maybe it's the perfect time to re-examine your patterns and your behaviors and see if any changes need to be made. I'm happy to work with you, if you wish to do that."
"But if I start doubting myself, then the people will lose their faith in me, and I'll lose more of my self-esteem, and so on. It's a no-win situation. I want you to just move on to other areas, doc. But I want to make sure again that our confidentiality agreement is still in place; nothing I say leaves this room, right?"
THE SWAMP NIGHTMARE
"Yes, of course. OK, we can move on to other topics, and perhaps as we talk, some of the other areas that need work will insert themselves. Why don't you tell me about those nightmares you're having. What's the most recent one?"
"It reminds me of the one I told you about during our first session. In this one, I'm stuck up to my neck in black tar, in a swamp red with blood. Sharks are circling me. I scream for help to my friends in the airboats, but they just smile and wave at me. Burros, whose noses are machine-guns, are aiming at me from the bank; big sheets of paper are falling on me from the sky. I feel like a perfect target: unable to get out of the tar; my enemies can pick me off; my friends aren't coming to my aid; the paper sheets are falling faster and faster; the black swamp is sucking me down. I wake up in a cold sweat."
"I certainly can see why you'd be disturbed by those images. What do you make of the dream? You began by saying it reminded you of the nightmare you told me previously, where you were swimming in black sticky stuff and crying tears of blood. Why do you think, for example, your friends would not be coming to your aid?"
"In the dream, they think I'm going down anyway, so why come near me? They might get shot also or get eaten by the sharks. So they smile and wave and pretend they're still my friends. But they've really just deserted me to save their asses."
"And can you translate that to your life in the real world? Do you think your friends are deserting you?"
"My poll numbers are in the toilet, and I'm losing battle after battle in Congress as conservatives and moderates peel off. I guess those are the people in the dream smiling and waving at me. They're no longer in my pocket, not afraid any more. They rode my coattails into power in Congress, but having to face re-election in November, they're now happy to put some distance between themselves and me, away from that mucky swamp."
ADMITTING WEAKNESS IS WEAKNESS
"Who's trying to shoot at you? What do you think the swamp means? And who are the sharks and where do those dropping sheets of paper come from?"
"Burros are like donkeys, so no secret there; the Democrats are taking pot-shots at me every day. And more and more elements in the press are circling like sharks, smelling my political weakness, and dumping on me, though we still have Fox and the cable-news shows and the radio talk-shows that our base listens to. The swamp? Not a bad description of Washington, D.C., if you ask me. And, like in the earlier dream, I guess the tar probably is oil, and the blood is from the war in Iraq."
"You'd make a good therapist, sir; I think your interpretations are spot-on. So let's extrapolate. If your current policies are losing you support, bringing out the political and media 'sharks,' why not consider altering your policies, perhaps moving closer to the center, so you can get more of your programs passed?"
"For one thing, we can't be sure the people would vote for my policies these days. Besides, I told you: That way says to the people, and especially to my supporters: 'I was wrong, my policies were wrong.' That makes me look weak. If a President appears weak, he loses his clout, people are not afraid of him any longer, and thus he becomes even weaker."
"But the dream seems to be telling you that your behaviors and policies have already weakened you. But let's put that political aspect aside for now; the key question outside the dream is: What are you really afraid of, deep down, that keeps you from making the necessary compromises politicians must make?"
(Long silence.) "I'd be seen as what my parents and others have called me all my life; I'd be a "loser," someone with no intelligence to get things done effectively, just living off the reputations and assistance of others. This office was going to change that for me. We were thinking big, moving big in the world, and in the country; sure, people thought we were cocky and arrogant, but it was more that we were absolutely sure we were doing the right thing so why compromise with those who disagreed? God chose me to save the country, to fight the Evil Ones, and to change the world for the better, don't forget that."
SAVING THE LEGACY
"Yes, I do understand you feel that way. But I keep getting back to the central question: Your way, the barrel-on-through approach, confronting and threatening, seems to have alienated not only your enemies but many of your friends as well. Unless you're willing to fight to the end, simply continuing those behaviors that used to work for you in the past, then you'll have to make adjustments to save yourself and your legacy. And, I might add, to avoid impeachment."
"Yes, we may have to make a few tactical adjustments in these months before the November election, so we can hold onto the House and thus stave off any possible impeachment hearings there -- and maybe criminal charges later. But my advisors and I are determined in the next two years to continue to play hard-ball with our enemies and those who desert us. That's the strategy that got us here, and kept our political enemies totally flummoxed. We will stay the course in Iraq; we will continue to roll back governmental regulation of corporations; we will rule from the Unitary Executive position; we will monitor all communications, domestic and foreign, and, if it comes to it, we'll force a constitutional crisis and trust that our court appointees will rule in our favor."
"And if that doesn't work and you and the Vice President are impeached? Would you resign rather than put yourself and the country through a trial in the Senate?"
"I don't think it will come to that, but if it does, we'll take it to the very end and let the chips fall where they may."
"May I speak freely here, sir?"
"Of course. You're a rich psychiatrist who has been most generous to the party; you're a Pioneer. Besides, you don't have an agenda, so it's easier to listen to you."
"You used the word 'chips.' Many fellow Republicans might well respond that you're not playing poker here, sir. Those 'chips,' they might say, are the Constitution, and the GOP, and the people of this country, and your wife and your girls and, and other nations, and your -- you're really willing to take the country down with you, if it comes to that?"
SPREADING THE BLAME
"I said you could speak freely, but you're taking liberties, Mr. Shrink. Watch what you say. Anyway, if we are taken down, it won't be my fault. It'll be the partisan Democrats, getting revenge for what we did to Clinton, and the weak-kneed in our own GOP ranks who couldn't take the heat, and the Iraqis, who would do anything to get back at me for invading them, and the people for electing me, and the neo-cons -- a number of them are Jewish, by the way, which will come in very handy in assigning blame. Our forces will take a hit, sure, but we'll reorganize our true-patriot movement and go after those evil ones who 'lost Iraq' -- the cowardly moderate Republicans, the slimy Democrats, the Iraqi terrorists, the Black Caucus, the Islamists, the Jews, the liberal internet wackos -- and we'll be back in a few years. And I'll be regarded as a saviour of our cause who was done in by forces of Satan. I won't go off with my tail between my legs, but brandishing a sword of vengeance and faith."
"Do you really believe all that?"
"No, of course not, at least not all of it. But it'll play out there in the Red states, and I'm young enough, I'll be around to give it a focus."
"All this is very interesting. But let me, as your consulting therapist, offer an alternative idea about your situation. It's just a theory, so tell me if I've gone wrong here. It's possible that you are indeed in a swamp, but it's not just oil but a moral quagmire that derives from the blood you have to spill daily to maintain your control of those resources, and, in a sense, even to keep control of yourself. In this interpretation, that's why you're so agitated and depressed. There's no implication that you're a bad man or a 'loser' in this regard; lots of presidents, even the best ones, found themselves in that same area of moral ambiguity when sending young men and women to die in wars."
"I don't like where you're going with this, doc. I'm warning you."
"Another way of looking at your situation, as one reason your poll numbers have fallen so precipitously, is that the country senses that you've been sucked down in that swamp not only by external enemies and situations but by your own choices. In this view, you're a Faustian character who exchanged his soul for power and control -- but it's not just you who is suffering because of it. The country as a whole is feeling the impact of your decisions, in a wide variety of areas, and realizes that since you're incapable of or unwilling to alter the course of your policies -- or even to acknowledge that you might have made some major errors -- they have to move in a different direction.
"I know this interpretation might not be easy to hear, but I'm offering it as a possibility, something you might want to think about. In my professional opinion, you need to do something, quickly, sir, to ease the internal pressures building up in you. I say all this both to help save your presidency, since I still believe you're capable of greatness, and to save you, since your psyche is too delicately balanced right now, and I don't want to see you go over the edge into a total breakdown."
"You're just trying to tear me down, like the rest of them. I warned you. I hope you enjoy your stay in Gitmo, fella. Guards! Take him away!" [They start to exit.]
"I know this session may have been really painful for you, sir, but if you change your mind once your anger subsides, you'll know where to find me."
"Shrinks! Meddling bastards! [picks up red phone] Rummy, shock-and-awe, baby! It's Iran time."
Bernard Weiner, a playwright and poet, has authored numerous ##fantasias, parodies and satires. ( www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm ) A Ph.D. in government & international relations, he has taught at various universities, worked as a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers ( www.crisispapers.org). To comment: >> firstname.lastname@example.org <<
First published at The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 4/11/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.