When Fidel Castro gave a speech in Villa Clara for a Cuban national holiday this summer, he didn’t read from the “Communist Manifesto.”
The Cuban dictator was criticizing President Bush and regaling a crowd with excerpts from a book written by a psychoanalyst from the GW Medical School’s clinical staff. In “Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President,” Justin Frank, whose practice is based in D.C., paints a psychoanalytic profile of Bush and questions his ability to run the country.
“The most exciting thing for me after writing this book was when I turned on the TV and I saw Fidel Castro reading out loud to a million people in Santa Clara,” said Frank, who added that he is pleased with the book’s reception since it came out in mid-June.
Frank said he wrote the book after observing the president’s behavior on television and in newspapers. He added that he found certain parts of Bush’s behavior to be “disturbing.”
“I was giving a paper in Washington … and I realized I didn’t want to write about cases, I wanted to write about Bush,” he said.
In the book, Frank questions the duality of Bush’s sense of humor and what the psychoanalyst calls his inability to communicate while unscripted. He also examines Bush’s religiousness and his decision to go to war in Iraq.
“George W. Bush is a case study in contradiction,” Frank writes in “Bush on the Couch.” “All of us have witnessed the affable good humor with which he charms both supporters and detractors; even those of us who disagree with his policies may find him personally likeable. As time goes on, however, the gulf between his personality and those policies – and the style with which they are executed – grows ever wider, raising serious questions about his behavior.”
Frank said that since he was not able to analyze Bush firsthand, the research needed for the book was extensive. He added that he had to take two years off from his position at the GW Medical School’s clinical staff to write the book. Frank, who is not paid by GW, does research for the Medical School.
“I watched tapes of Bush, studied every speech he gave and read every book on the president, including his mother’s memoirs,” he said.
In his final conclusion on Bush, Frank asserts that the president suffers from megalomania and has a difficult time managing leftover childhood anxiety. This leads to the contradictions Frank has observed.
The psychoanalyst said if one of his patients showed similar behavior to that of Bush’s, he would begin anxiety-management therapy immediately. Frank added that Bush’s symptoms make him unfit to run the country.
Frank said he is confident that his portrait of the president is entirely accurate, but admitted that there are limitations to an analysis of a subject who does not volunteer for therapy.
“When you’re in therapy, it’s completely unscripted, but in this case, you just have to look for patterns in behavior,” he said.
The book also goes beyond the realm of psychoanalysis and criticizes many of the president’s policies, at times in a manner that seems somewhat unrelated to the main topics of the books.
Frank, a liberal Democrat, said keeping his bias out of the book was difficult, but he tried his best.
“I think the book is written very objectively,” he said.
While some may view the book as politically charged and opinion based, Dennis Johnson, associate dean of the Graduate School of Political Management, said Frank’s conclusions are not unique.
“Bush probably has been the target of more anti-Bush documentaries and books than any president. Even more than (Bill) Clinton,” he wrote in an e-mail last week. “There is a visceral dislike of Bush among many writers and thinkers, and inevitably books like this will come out.”
Johnson added that critical political books, which come out more frequently during an election season, tend to be factually accurate.
“The real damage to a president or candidate comes in the interpretation of facts and the decision to emphasize certain aspects and draw conclusions from them,” said Johnson, who has not read Frank’s book.