George W. Bush remains an untreated alcoholic. The untreated alcoholic who has simply stopped drinking treats anxiety as an enemy. Bush’s current enemy, the primary cause of his anxiety, is Cindy Sheehan. Nobody talks about it – the press is afraid of it — but we are all enabling a man whose grasp of reality is tenuous at best.
Anxiety is always challenging; but when an untreated alcoholic’s behavior is challenged, his anxiety increases dramatically - and with it, the need to numb its sting. Anxiety is then a threat to his abstinence. Instead of learning new means to manage feelings, he has to spend energy fighting his fears. In Bush’s case, he fiercely rides his mountain bike.
Managing his anxiety is one reason presidential briefings have been so simple. USA Today reports on August 25 that Bush’s foreign policy briefings were, until very recently, presented to him with “snappy headlines” and simplistic perspectives leaving “little room for doubt or nuance.” No wonder it was so simple to invade Iraq.
Bush himself said that he doesn't do nuance. The truth is, he can't. Evading anxiety over all these years – whether with alcohol, religion, or exercise – has compromised his ability to think. Instead, Bush relies on daily routines. His bicycling routine is rigidly adhered to; but thinking—and a mechanism to facilitate it—are nonexistent.
The Financial Times of London had a headline on August 25 saying that the “US Army looks to leave Iraq” despite Bush himself saying things to the contrary. His rigidity of thought is not motivated by stubbornness, or by a fear of being wrong. It is safer for Bush to hold onto an idea that has served him in the past than to try a new one that might not work. His need for consistency leads to swift and vigorous responses to any threats that may challenge it.
Unfortunately for Bush, already in retreat in Crawford, the challenge posed by Cindy Sheehan has been too much - it pushed him to run to Idaho. He cannot bomb her, but he can unleash his minions – from Drudge to the American Legion – to attack. The Livestrong motto which made Lance Armstrong an American hero means something different to Bush – Livestrong to protect against being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety.