Ted Stevens, the senator facing indictments on seven counts of criminal charges, is clearly unfit to stand trial, due to the clinical depression he admits to suffering from. Perhaps Stevens' earliest sign of psychopathology was in 1997 when he diagnosed himself as a mean, miserable son of a bitch. Ted's 28 years of tirelessly protecting the American people from the polar bears who hate us for our freedoms, by defending our right to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, has taken a toll on the senator.
Stevens first exhibited signs of post-arctic depression, when the Senate voted against his bill to open ANWAR up to more drilling. A candid Stevens said, "I'm really depressed. As a matter of fact, I'm seriously--I'm seriously depressed. Unfortunately, clinically depressed. I've been told that because I've just been at this too long."
In textbook fashion, the rejection, combined with Stevens' sense of failure, triggered this late onset octogenarian depression. The symptoms returned after Stevens lost yet another battle in his uphill fight against endangered species and wildlife. The then 83-year-old senator exclaimed: "This is the saddest day of my life." The trauma was so acute it apparently rivaled the pain he suffered after his wife's death in a tragic plane crash. It seems Stevens achieved a sense of closure after confronting the cause of his wife's death, Senator Mike Gravel (D-AK). In the group therapy that is the U.S. Senate, Stevens shared, "I don't want to get personal about it...but I think if that bill [which was being blocked by Gravel] had passed, I might have a wife sitting at home when I get home tonight, too." But unlike the vote that condemned his wife to death, the vote against drilling freedom was too much for Stevens to bear. In a classic cry for help, Stevens threatened to take his own political life: "It's a day I don't want to remember. I say goodbye to the Senate tonight. Thank you very much."
Stevens then manifested signs of manic depression as he swung out of a state of the blues and into a state of the green. Exhibiting signs of displacement, transference and delusion, Stevens identified with the character of the Hulk. He personified the fictitious character and would wear his great signature Hulk tie on days of important votes. Stevens remained in the Senate where he got "pumped up" and warned his pro-polar opponents, "You bet your bottom dollar I'll remember [this vote]. If I ever give my word, I keep it. I'm mad enough to eat nails right now, to have people not keep their word to me. I'm going to go to every one of your states, and I'm going to tell them what you've done. This was wrong." Stevens' awareness that he was engaged in a battle between bear and oil, good and bad, right and wrong renewed his sense of purpose, but also triggered his bipolar condition and delusions of mobility, political sway, and brute force. The final demonstration of his instability was wearing a white wig and competing in the third-annual Crafters Smackdown.
Ironically, this prosecution of the mentally ill is something Ted would support if in his right mind. But, I speak for the sane when I say that Stevens deserves treatment, not incarceration.
Katie Halper('s father) is a psychiatrist in New York City (M.D. Columbia University)