Jim Webb is Bush's own age. The parallels are humiliating.
Webb is the son of a decorated war hero...who is a decorated Navy Cross, Vietnam war hero himself...and whose marine son went to the front lines in Iraq a few months ago.
President Bush's father was a much decorated war hero and a star athlete who loved and excelled in competition.
Bush, unlike his brother Jeb, was never able to match his father's achievements. Our current President did not excel in sport, did not do well in business, and most importantly, never served in Vietnam.
Probably the biggest shame in President Bush's life has been his inability to live up to his father's expectations.
To top off the affront, Webb's election win swung Senate control to the Democrats. Webb campaigned aggressively against Bush's policies...wearing his son's combat boots.
As Webb walked up to him in the White House, adrenaline and anxiety flooded Bush's brain and enraged him to the point where he couldn't think clearly.
"How's your boy?" Bush asked, putting on a forced smile - an eminently normal question under most circumstances.
But Bush did know about Webb's son. He was unconsciously taunting Webb. And Bush should have known that for any parent - worried about the welfare of a child in a war - this is not the best kind of small talk.
Webb's answer to the man responsible for putting his son in harm's way, considering the circumstances, was also eminently normal:
"I'd like to get them out of Iraq."
The reply he got was an honest answer to a stupid question. Did Bush expect a polite lie?
And the underlying anxiety caused Bush to explode. Not only was the response bad manners...the person confronting him was a decorated war hero...like his father.
The normal response to the parent of a combat soldier from an empathetic politician, or a slick mouthpiece like Tony Snow, to this expected comment, would have been something like this:
"I am trying to get all our boys home, as fast as I can. I worry about them all, but I especially worry about your son."
The problem is that our President is not a normal human being, comfortable in his own skin.
Instead the President snapped,
"That's not what I asked you."
"I asked you how's your boy?"
So angry was Bush that he gave Webb a verbal finger. Webb already fuming, anxious and worried, replied, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President," coldly ending the conversation.
Bush is an untreated alcoholic, also known in treatment circles as a "dry drunk." Alcoholism is a symptom of larger problems and drinking is a form of self-medication. Merely stopping drinking doesn't solve the underlying problems.
Alcoholics, dry or not, resort to megalomania as long as they have the resources to maintain their illusion. When confronted or overwhelmed by the consequences of their actions, they resort to blame, rage and impulsive, sometimes destructive actions.
It is well known and documented that Bush is suffering from a number of serious, but potentially treatable psychological disorders. Among them: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), an omnipotence complex, paranoia, an unresolved Oedipal Complex, sadism, and a mild form of Tourettes Syndrome.
All of these disorders will lead to a "diminished ability to manage anxiety," according to Dr. Justin Frank, author of Bush on the Couch.
There are many ways to manage anxiety and one famous way Bush coped was painfully obvious during the first Presidential debate. Kerry triggered a panic attack by bringing up Bush's father. Kerry confronted Bush with the fact that he was making mistakes in Iraq that Bush Sr. never would have made...
Bush went into an immediate meltdown. All Bush could do was repeat, "being President is hard, hard work" about five times. This same kind of repetition is what he did with Senator-elect Webb. The phrases become anxiety-managing mantras.
Since he stopped drinking, Bush has managed his anxiety by maintaining a strong connection to God and a very rigid lifestyle. Another classic way to manage anxiety is to be cruel to others, often by making them anxious, according to Dr. Frank. And a final way to deal with anxiety is to divide the world into good and bad, black and white.
Ultimately "white knuckle" alcoholics manage their anxiety by becoming detached and not taking responsibility for their actions. All these responses were at work when he confronted Webb.
Bush lives in a cocoon, afraid of confrontations or even talking to anyone who might disagree with him. Bush is frightened of being humiliated and being compared to his father. When he holds Town Meetings, he has the audience screened and purged of anyone who may disagree with him.
With this fragile psychological background, Bush is likely to suffer a severe and accelerating deterioration when his grandiose plans to solve the problems of the Middle East (as opposed to those of his father) come crushingly, and humiliatingly, apart.
Bullies are basically frightened people; the more frightened they become the more they need to reassert their power. The danger is that Bush becomes more megalomaniac and grandiose and desperate.
In a bar or on a street corner, this would be upsetting, but when the person we are talking about is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, with the power to invade counties, and kill hundreds of thousands of civilians...we should all be very afraid.
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