Never on Sunday

Untreated alcoholics confabulate. Confabulation is a form of amnesia in which the patient gives detailed descriptions of what he has, and has not, been recently doing. While convincing, these descriptions are totally fictitious, although the patient truly believes what he is saying at the time.

I have said before that all presidents, including President Bush, should have a psychiatric exam along with their annual physicals every August. It is even clearer after Bush told George Stephanopolus on a Sunday morning talk show that it's "never been about stay the course" that it's time for such an examination. This was not a simple update of the classic movie "Never on Sunday" where Sunday talk shows are times for not working, for not facing quotidian reality.

In any event, Bush now has his entire party, from Tony Snow on down, scrambling to explain this blatant fabrication. He tried to stifle criticism with an emergency press conference (October 25, 2006), and was at times combative, but was never specifically asked about "never".

Does Bush not remember having regularly (at least 29 times by most recent count) said "Stay the course"? I think at that moment that he really believed he'd never used such a phrase. It was as if he lost his own narrative thread of the Iraq war. What is to be done when we have a president who is totally disconnected from what he says and does?

The rest of the administration is caught the way the family of an alcoholic is caught - trying to make excuses for its ex-drinker. Part of the reason for the excuses is to keep the drinker safe from anxiety and exposure, lest he become overwhelmed and start drinking again. They go along with his confabulation without attempting to confront it. In this dire case they (the administration and its media watchdogs) have actually embraced Bush's confabulation, trying desperately to rationalize it to themselves and the rest of us - including, I suppose, our presidentially blindsided American soldiers who continue to fight and die overseas.

It is clear Bush's ability to use narrative thinking is permanently compromised by his desperate need to manage anxiety. We see smiles of relief whenever he gets back on track. But getting back on track and constructing a narrative story-line for the war are not possible for him. He cannot link cause to effect. Put simply, George W. Bush is too concerned with managing his own feelings to think about the implications of his words beyond their function of ameliorating his immediate anxieties.

So here we are. What do we do about having a president who shows signs of being deluded? My first thought is that he needs to have a psychiatric evaluation immediately, for his sake and ours. August of 2007 may be too late for George W. Bush and the world. Our nation is not safe with such a person at the helm.

But how do we confront him? People who confabulate are confronted directly often lash out at their questioners, which in President Bush's case could be a disaster for us all. Might a fit of rage provoke him to call for a nuclear strike against Iran - just to prove to him and the rest of us that he is as strong as ever, that he is not crazy, and that he is surrounded by genuinely dangerous enemies?

This is not a laughing matter; nor is it one about which the Democrats should gloat as they anticipate more gains this November. If our President - everyone's President and the military's Commander in Chief - is severely compromised, and I don't mean politically, we have both the right to know and the imperative to take appropriate action. .