Yes, I’m not a psychologist, but as a Family Practitioner in rural areas, I’ve diagnosed and treated my share of mental illnesses in my patients. So I am appalled at the press swallowing the spin that Governor Blagojevich’s desire for money/bribes is a “mental illness”.

CBS2Chicago:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich knew for months he was under investigation, so why was he caught on tape making so many incriminating statements? Some are wondering if there’s something wrong with his mental acuity.

Mental acuity? Do you mean his IQ (mental retardation), his judgement (frontal lobe syndrome due to an injury) or his cognitive ability (early Alzheimer’s disease)?

The reporter then quotes an “expert”:

Dr. Daniela Schreirer is a forensic psychologist at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and she does not see any sign of mental illness in the public Blagojevich, but believes he does have sociopathic traits.

Oh, he has “sociopathic traits”. A sociopath is an inborn tendency to lack a conscience. They can lie, cheat, use drugs, harm someone, and manipulate others. A Wikipedia article says that the latest term for this type of person is anti social personality disorder, and lists the personality traits:

Three or more of the following are required:[1]

  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 repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
  4. Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. Reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  7. Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Heh. That sounds like half the politicians in Washington.

Yet even a sociopath would not go around offering a Senate seat for money on the telephone if he knew that the Feds were watching him closely.

Another CBS2 reporter wonders if Blagojevich’s beautiful hair is a symbol of mental illness:

Gov. Blagojevich’s glossy locks — perfectly sculpted in rain or snow — may be an indication of a sickness beneath his scalp, said one local psychologist….

Several psychologists interviewed one day after the governor’s arrest agreed that he might be suffering from an affliction known as narcissistic personality disorder.

Reporter Gary Davis cites another article also diagnosing narcissism.

Kristen McQueary of the “SouthTown Star” part of The Sun-Times News Group…suggests, without malice that Blagojevich may not be able to control his actions.

Just in the last couple of days he seems to have been out of touch with the seriousness of the charges against him…McQueary suggests that Blagojevich may suffer from Narcissism which often begins early in life. When a person has it they deviate from normal behavior even knowing there are great risks involved.

Oh, he suffers from Narcissistic personality disorder, not anti social personality disorder.

Again, from Wikipedia:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement
  6. is interpersonally exploitative
  7. lacks empathy
  8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Again, having beautiful hair, thinking you are entitled to anything you want, and stepping on other’s rights to get what you deserve describes half the people in politics, along with a lot of Hollywood types, sports figures and rock stars.

What all these “diagnoses” have in common is that they are not describing mental illnesses per se but personality disorders.

There are, however, two “mental illnesses” that are compatible with the governor’s behavior.

One is substance abuse, especially of meth or cocaine.

The second mental illness that could cause this (and the only one that would hold up in court) is an acute manic phase of bipolar disease, an illness that used to be called Manic Depression. In this, people go from depressed/lack of energy states to life of the party/no sleep/drug abuse/promiscuity phases. If it is severe, the person can hallucinate or get delusions.

I’ve seen good, normally stable and loving people ruin their lives because they did something in a manic state; however, since Blagojevich has been under Federal investigation for four years, one doubts that a manic phase would last that long.

But all this talk of “mental illness” is actually nonsense.

You see, in a normal world, if a governor who was surrounded by ordinary honest people went and asked someone for a million dollar contribution to be appointed to a Senate seat, people would be shocked. His aides would go to his wife (or best friend) and say: Would you stop him because he’s acting crazy. The politicians approached to give the huge donations would say: Are you crazy? You should appoint me because I am the best person to represent the people of your state. If you keep asking for money, I’ll report you to the Feds (or the local newspaper).

Apparantly, in Blagojevich’s case, everyone thought his actions were a little bit more than  politics as normal:

Then we have AP reporter Nancy Benac discussing if the governor actually did anything wrong:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Politicians make deals every day. They do favors and ask them in return. They kowtow to campaign contributors.It may be unsavory, but it’s often perfectly legal.The prosecutors who arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich say his conduct went far beyond politics-as-usual into a shocking pattern of corruption. But where’s the line?…President-elect Barack Obama acknowledged as much Thursday, speaking of wheelers and dealers who ask “what’s in it for me?”

Silly me.

I thought those elected to office were there to serve and protect the public, not try to figure out “what’s in it for me”.

“It’s not like, ‘Gimme $50,000 in a black bag and I’ll give you the nomination,'” diGenova said.

“People give campaign contributions and expect things in exchange,” he said. “It’s all perfectly legal.”…

“Deals are made all the time in politics,” said Daniel Lowenstein, a professor at UCLA Law School. “Our system couldn’t operate without it.”

The fine line in all of this is that if the money goes to a candidate, it is illegal. If it goes to his campaign, it’s okay, as long as you can’t prove it was to buy a vote on an issue involving the donor later on.

Yet who can track all the donations to make sure that the donations don’t influence a vote? Especially if the donations came from “individuals” at a business, not from the business itself? For example, it can be argued the housing crisis at Fannie Mac/FreddieMac was caused  because those organizations arranged for their “employees” to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians campaign funds, and in return, were allowed to continue their bad loan practices.

This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg, and when Obama’s huge campaign chest is lauded as wonderful by the press, his donations from “individuals” which included repeated donations from the same party make it impossible to track who gave money for what. At the same time, very little attention was paid by the press to Obama’s broken promise to comply with the (voluntary) limits on campaign spending of the McCain Feingold act; by doing so, his actions essentially made it impossible for all future candidates to limit campaign spending.

So one wonders if the US is in for a very long four years with a Chicago politician as president…

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Makaipablog.

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