Bay Buchanan: The Doctor Is In

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A few years ago, when Bush on the Couch was published by psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, his publicist invited me to review it. I declined on ethical grounds. Frank, having never met George W. Bush, is not qualified to diagnose him, despite his using the technique of “applied psychoanalysis” which permits the psychological analysis of a public figure, but which–in my opinion–shoud be limited to analysis of the dead. (I am a psychotherapist, and I know that if I did such a thing, my board would come down hard on me.)

Enter Bay Buchanan, who is most definitely not a mental health practitioner of any kind, but who has provided us with a casual diagnosis of Sen. Clinton. In her book, The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, Buchanan hints that Clinton may have narcissistic personality disorder. (Buchanan calls it “narcissistic personality style,” a term which does not exist in the mental health repretoire.)

In describing how she reached that conclusion, Buchanan refers to an endnote in the book that does not exist. All the same, Buchanan says that “[W]e are talking about a clinical condition that could make her [Clinton] dangerously ill-suited to become President and Commander-in-Chief.” She then covers herself by saying “I pass no judgment as to whether this shoe fits the Lady Hillary.”

Diagnosing someone from afar, especially if you are not a mental health expert, is wildly irresponsible, even if you say “I don’t really mean it, I’m just saying….” There are plenty of former presidents who weren’t quite right, like Kennedy (drug addiction and sexual compulsion) and Nixon (alcoholism and violence), and Buchanan’s colleagues are ga-ga about at least one of them, and sometimes both of them. It wouldn’t be too difficult apply phony mental health language to other candidates, but I could have guessed that an armchair psychotherapist would go after Clinton. She is an “ambitious” woman, and she is married to Bill. Who needs more information than that?

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