What is worse than a reformed drunk?



KATHERINE VAN WORMER, IRISH TIMES - Brain studies reinforce what recovering alcoholics and their counselors have been saying for years; long-term alcohol and other drug use changes the chemistry of the brain These anomalies in brain patterns are associated with a rigidity in thinking. . .

"Dry drunk" is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking, one who is dry, but whose thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be dry but not truly sober; such an individual tends to go to extremes.

It was when I started noticing the extreme language that colored Mr Bush's speeches that I began t o wonder. First there were the terms - "crusade" and "infinite justice" that were later withdrawn. Next came "evildoers", "axis of evil", and "regime change", terms that have almost become cliches. Something about the polarized thinking and the obsessive repetition reminded me of many of the recovering alcoholics/addicts I had treated.

Over the months, hundreds of people, many of them in recovery from alcoholism, have written "ah-ha" letters and provided additional insights to the hypothesis: "I spotted it right away - he's a dry-drunk," or "He needs to work on his issues." Consider the most commonly delineated traits of irrational thinking known as "the dry-drunk syndrome" and how closely they match the personality characteristics of George W. Bush.

Exaggerated self-importance and grandiose behavior. . .

All or nothing thinking. . .

Obsessiveness. . .

The man who knows George W. best, the person most familiar with his rashness of thought, recently sent him a message. In a speech at Tufts University, George Bush Snr emphasized the need for the US to maintain close ties with Europe and the UN. "You've got to reach out to the other person," he advised. If only George W. would.

Katherine van Wormer Ph.D. is professor of social work at the University of Northern Iowa. She is co-author of Addiction Treatment: A Strength's Perspective


`WE WERE TERRIBLE TO ANIMALS,' recalled [Bush pal Terry] Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush borne turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out. `Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,' Throckmorton said. `Or we'd put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.'- Nicholas D. Kristof, Midland Life, TX

DAVID COGSWELL - We are talking now about a guy who as a kid put firecrackers in frogs and threw them into the air to watch them explode. He cracked himself up in an interview with Talk magazine by mocking a woman on death row whose cries for mercy he scorned, screwing up his face and saying, "Please don't kill me!" in an impersonation of the deceased. He presided over more executions as governor of Texas than any governor since capital punishment was legalized. His own people said he never spent more than 15 minutes deliberating over whether to sign the order to kill. . . This is a man who enjoys killing. He is totally in his element when it comes to killing. Everyone is different. This is the way he is.


[From detonating frogs with firecrackers as a kid to torturing Afghan prisoners, George Bush has shown an interest in sadistic violence. Now David Martin sends along this from a few years back.

RICHARD GOODING, STAR WEEKLY, July 27, 1999 - Presidential candidate George W. Bush once led a Yale fraternity that barbarically branded its new members on their backsides with a red-hot metal rod as part of a sadistic hazing practice. "I got branded and I didn't like it one bit," Professor Bradford Lee of the elite Naval War College in Newport, R.I.-an ex-football player and onetime member of Bush's Delta Epsilon Kappa fraternity-told STAR in an exclusive interview. "It did burn," he says, recalling the terrifying experience. "I think I still have the mark on me."

A Star investigation has revealed that he was president of Delta Epsilon Kappa when the hazing scandal broke in the campus newspaper in the late '60s-leading to the fraternity being fined and the branding practice halted. Amazingly, Bush, now the governor of Texas, defended the illegal torture of the young fraternity pledges at the time as a harmless prank-insisting that it was comparable to "only a cigarette burn" which left "no scarring mark physically or mentally." But others said the branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta.

Lee-who still bears the mark 32 years later-is not sure who actually wielded the brand because the pledges were not allowed to look at their tormentors. "But I do know that George Bush was very active in all the fraternity activities then."

Lee, who was a guard on the Yale football team, recalled that the branding came after "a long initiation that went on into the early morning hours." He says the idea was to wear you out so much that you allowed your bare flesh to be singed. "I was already tired from football practice earlier that day. I was so groggy I wasn't exactly sensitive to what they were up to. I wasn't very happy about it."

. . . Bill Katz, now a community college teacher in northern New Jersey, told Star that the branding was done with "a wire coat hanger twisted into a triangle and heated up" in the fireplace. "They touched you just above the buttocks, in the small of the back," he says.

. . . And Boston lawyer Franklin Levy said that to increase the fear of the moment, the older fraternity men first brandished an actual glowing hot branding iron-to make them think that was what awaited them. "When they burned me," Levy remembers, "I jumped a mile."

Before the brandings, pledges had to endure hours of being kicked and a vicious round of tannings with wooden paddles-another practice that Yale has ruled taboo. "On that night," according to an account in the Yale Daily News in 1967, 'each pledge was forced to sit with his head between his legs, motionless, for two to five hours.

"If he coughed, raised his hand or talked, he was kicked by an older brother." After all the beatings, recalled one fraternity member, the branding was almost a relief.

In the wake of the Yale Daily News' expose of the fraternity's hazing, Bush, whose father was also a DKE at Yale, admitted the branding to the New York Times in November 1967. But Bush - whose college nickname was "Lip" for his Texas wisecracks - also ripped into Yale for being too "Haughty" to "allow this type of pledging to go on."

ALAN BISBORT, AMERICAN POLITICS JOURNAL - Alcoholics Anonymous has a name for someone who is a drunk in every way except for the actual imbibing of spirits. They call that person a "dry drunk." This is not a judgmental term, nor should this be a judgmental topic in America, where there are, by even the most conservative estimates, 10 million adult alcoholics, and very few families that have not been touched, in one way or another, by this national scourge. This same scourge has, by his own admission, also touched the life of our Commander in Chief. . . Bush's past battles with the bottle are worth pondering at a time like this, one of the most dangerous in the nation's history. When a recovering alcoholic begins to engage in what AA calls "stinking thinking," he or she begins to exhibit the old attitudes and pathologies of their drinking years. These include an increase in anxiety, mild tremors, mild depression, disturbed sleep patterns, inability to think clearly, craving for junk food, irritability, sudden bursts of anger and unpredictable mood swings. According to AA literature, "Boredom and listlessness may alternate with intense feelings of resentment against family and friends, and explosive outbursts of violence." Bush said he was a "heavy drinker." But let's not be coy here. Anyone who has ever imbibed heavily over a long period of time knows that "heavy drinker" is the rich man's (or the politician's) code for alcoholic.

How did he, at age 58, get so fumble-tongued, incapable of stringing more than two coherent sentences together, snippily irritable with anyone who dares disagree with him or even ask a question, poutily turning his back on the democratically elected president of one of our most important allies because of something one of his underlings said about him, listlessly in need of constant vacations and rest, dangerously obsessed with only one thing, to the exclusion of all other things (including an economy that is slowly sucking the life from the nation as well as the retirement savings of anyone reading these words)? Furthermore, why is Bush so eager to engage in violence and so incapable of explaining why?

KATHERINE VAN WORMER, COUNTERPUNCH - What is the dry drunk syndrome? "Dry drunk" traits consist of:

Exaggerated self-importance and pomposity
Grandiose behavior
A rigid, judgmental outlook
Childish behavior
Irresponsible behavior
Irrational rationalization

Clearly, George W. Bush has all these traits except exaggerated self importance. He may be pompous, especially with regard to international dealings, but his actual importance hardly can be exaggerated. His power, in fact, is such that if he collapses into paranoia, a large part of the world will collapse with him. Unfortunately, there are some indications of paranoia in statements such as the following: "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends." The trait of projection is evidenced here as well, projection of the fact that we are ready to attack onto another nation which may not be so inclined.


CAROL WOLMAN, MD, COUNTERPUNCH - Many people, inside and especially outside this country, believe that the American president is nuts, and is taking the world on a suicidal path. As a board-certified psychiatrist, I feel it's my duty to share my understanding of his psychopathology. He's a complicated man, under tremendous pressure from both his family/junta, and from the world at large. So the following is offered with humility and questioning, in the form of a differential diagnosis.

From the Freudian point of view:

Dubya may be acting out a classical Oedipal drama--overcome Daddy to get Mommy. By deposing Saddam, when his father did not, he may want to prove himself more worthy of his mother's love. His rationale that he is avenging the assassination attempt on George, Sr., may be a reaction formation - his way of hiding the true motive from himself. . .

From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition, Antisocial Personality Disorder--301.7

There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others since age 15 years as indicated by at least three of the following: 1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others; 7) lack of remorse by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated or stolen from others. . .

Another possibility: Narcissistic personality disorder 301.81

1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance- exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements;

2) in preoccupied with fantasies of unliimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love;

3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people. . .


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    Published: January 27, 2005


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    resident Bush says he has ordered his cabinet not to rent any more journalists to promote his policies, which was certainly the right thing to do. But he still seemed as much bemused as discomfited yesterday that administration officials have been caught making payoffs for positive "news coverage" from ostensibly independent journalists. At his news conference, Mr. Bush said that the White House had no knowledge of the arrangements with sellout members of the Fourth Estate and that he has reminded his cabinet secretaries that "our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

    Still, we were puzzled as to why Mr. Bush had not said that earlier; his administration was caught hiring a public relations specialist last year to pose as a news reporter and peddle propaganda spots. The president also did not say whether his new policy of an "independent relationship" between the White House and the press corps extended to staff members who deny airplane seats and other access to reporters as punishment for their coverage.

    Mr. Bush was plainly irritated by having to field questions about administration officials who tapped taxpayers to finance spin-for-money deals. The most prominent sellout was Armstrong Williams, the conservative television commentator who took $240,000 to do administration bidding on behalf of the No Child Left Behind Act while making a show of tough-minded candor.

    The latest is the syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher, who did not disclose a $21,500 government writing contract for her promotion of Bush policy on strengthening marriage. Last year, there was the propaganda video on behalf of the Medicare drug program offered to budget-pressed TV stations. Full disclosure at signoff might have said, "Reporting live and in the tank!"

    Loss of credibility works both ways. The exposed spinners deservedly suffer shame. But the administration's believability comes into question when officials like Rod Paige, the outgoing education secretary, defend buying faked coverage.


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