Somethin' not right with the boy. This is one of those topics I'm uncomfortable bringing up; it ought to come from someone in the family. Certainly the question ought not to be raised by someone who despises the fellow, both his speech and his actions. My perceptions are suspect.
Sincerely, without snide intention, my question is this: does the President of the United States, George W. Bush, show in his speech and affect the early signs of neurological disease, perhaps an aftereffect of (by his own admission) 20 years of drinking and using drugs?
First, two cavests. When I was a psychiatric aide and student-- ten years, until life convinced me that I was too thin-skinned to become a therapist-- we used to have "disease of the week syndrome". You learn about something new and start fingering your psyche to see if you might be suffering from echolalia, or hebephrenia, or some Culture Specific Syndrome like running amok. ("When I talk to that Michael Fountain," an alcoholic, prescription abusing psychiatrist once joked to a nurse while I was still in the room, "I don't know whether I'm schizophrenic, or he's schizophrenic, or both of us are schizophrenic.") It's probably a fairly harmless hypochondria among students, and good training, I hope, for a writer.
There's also the danger of projecting a diagnosis onto our relatives and the people we meet. To be fair, even paranoids have real enemies, and sometimes a mother realliy is a borderline personality, an uncle or aunt is indeed a depressive. The sincere student ought to submit himself to psychotherapy, if only to learn the terrain of his or her own personality and preconceptions. (This is a prerequisite for Jungian therapists, and ought to be a requirement for all graduate students in psychology).
I must also caution that my concern is based on intuition and observation from a distance. It's very good intuition, with a good track record when predicting the outcome of current events, September 11 and other people's problems; not so good at protecting me from myself. It's useful for a writer but not reliable or testable; I ususally keep these intuitive leaps to myself. I'm sure the good doctors at Walter Reed are keeping an eye on this and keep their counsel to themselves.
Consider these signs of dementia and Korsakoff's psychosis:
* Difficulty in acquiring new information or learning new skills.
* Lack of insight into the condition. Even a person with great gaps in their memory may believe their memory is functioning normally.
* Inventing events to fill the gaps in memory. This is more common in the early stages of the illness and is known as 'confabulation'.
* Apathy, in some cases, or talkative and repetitive behaviour in others.
The Korsakov's disagnosis is weakened if we consider that alcoholic victims are usually malnourished, not likely in Bush's case. But we know nothing about the synergistic effect of cocaine use during the president's "youthful" indiscretions. This is not someone who drank heavily in his twenties. This is someone who drank heavily until he was forty.
Intranecine politics in the Republican Party has always seemed to me a lot like the turn-of-the-century, small town atmosphere in "King's Row", a roman-a-clef about Fulton, Missouri (and adapted into a film containing Ronald Reagan's best known performance.) Speak no ill of your fellow Republican, keep scandal within the family. Cover-ups, damage control and looking-the-other-way that would put the Clintons to shame, all justified by the perpetrators because the Grand Old Party must be protected from irresponsible criticism. It takes a major crisis for a Goldwater and Hugh Scott to go privately to a sitting president and tell him he has to go.
So far, the president's syndromes are only the stuff of wild internet rumors, with the most grounded discussion by MD Carol Wolman at Alexander Cockburn's Counterpunch here and here. The stufff that comes out of his mouth has long been a staple of the Daily Show and YouTube. We could just as well call the president a sociopath: arrogant, insensitive, impatient, erratic, unfocused, overly dramatic, unethical, insincere, remorseless, shallow, and bullying.
To someone familiar with the denials of dysfuntional families, just a few too many people have taken time to assure us (and themselves) that the president is smarter than he looks, more sensitive in private, just a bad public speaker like his father or dyslexic like his brother. All I'm asking is that you keep an eye on him the next time he blinks and struts and frets his hour upon the stage. And remember, when this surfaces years from now, like Reagan's Alzheimer's, that you saw it here first.