last time we met, sir, you had me thrown out of the White House,
thinking me too aggressive with my questions. Now you're back for another
session. What's changed?"
"It's worse. My world is falling apart. People aren't afraid of me
anymore. The whole Plame and Iraq-intelligence and NSA spying stuff is
coming at us full force, and we haven't got good answers. I can't sleep
well. I have more nightmares. Not even the pills help. My wife, my doctors
and my chief adviser more or less ordered me see you again. Otherwise, I
wouldn't have come, believe me."
"I do believe you. Many clients in the early stages of counseling
get very uncomfortable when the therapist brings up sensitive topics. It's
not unusual for them to lash out at the therapist rather than doing the
hard work of diving into that uncomfortable area and trying to deal with
"I don't believe in therapy, doc."
"Do you mean you don't believe it exists? Or that it doesn't work,
at least that it wouldn't help you?"
"I've gotten to where I am today on the basis of my will and belief
in myself, and I see no reason to question myself now."
"But you seem to be suggesting that you've lost your hold over
people after years of doing what you're always done. So maybe it's the
perfect time to re-examine your patterns and your behaviors and see if any
changes need to be made. I'm happy to work with you, if you wish to do
"But if I start doubting myself, then the people will lose their
faith in me, and I'll lose more of my self-esteem, and so on. It's a
no-win situation. I want you to just move on to other areas, doc. But I
want to make sure again that our confidentiality agreement is still in
place; nothing I say leaves this room, right?"
THE SWAMP NIGHTMARE
"Yes, of course. OK, we can move on to other topics, and perhaps
as we talk, some of the other areas that need work will insert themselves.
Why don't you tell me about those nightmares you're having. What's the
most recent one?"
"It reminds me of the one I told you about during our first session.
In this one, I'm stuck up to my neck in black tar, in a swamp red with
blood. Sharks are circling me. I scream for help to my friends in the
airboats, but they just smile and wave at me. Burros, whose noses are
machine-guns, are aiming at me from the bank; big sheets of paper are
falling on me from the sky. I feel like a perfect target: unable to get
out of the tar; my enemies can pick me off; my friends aren't coming to my
aid; the paper sheets are falling faster and faster; the black swamp is
sucking me down. I wake up in a cold sweat."
"I certainly can see why you'd be disturbed by those images. What
do you make of the dream? You began by saying it reminded you of the
nightmare you told me previously, where you were swimming in black sticky
stuff and crying tears of blood. Why do you think, for example, your
friends would not be coming to your aid?"
"In the dream, they think I'm going down anyway, so why come near me?
They might get shot also or get eaten by the sharks. So they smile and
wave and pretend they're still my friends. But they've really just
deserted me to save their asses."
"And can you translate that to your life in the real world? Do you
think your friends are deserting you?"
"My poll numbers are in the toilet, and I'm losing battle after
battle in Congress as conservatives and moderates peel off. I guess those
are the people in the dream smiling and waving at me. They're no longer in
my pocket, not afraid any more. They rode my coattails into power in
Congress, but having to face re-election in November, they're now happy to
put some distance between themselves and me, away from that mucky
ADMITTING WEAKNESS IS WEAKNESS
"Who's trying to shoot at you? What do you think the swamp means?
And who are the sharks and where do those dropping sheets of paper come
"Burros are like donkeys, so no secret there; the Democrats are
taking pot-shots at me every day. And more and more elements in the press
are circling like sharks, smelling my political weakness, and dumping on
me, though we still have Fox and the cable-news shows and the radio
talk-shows that our base listens to. The swamp? Not a bad description of
Washington, D.C., if you ask me. And, like in the earlier dream, I guess
the tar probably is oil, and the blood is from the war in Iraq."
"You'd make a good therapist, sir; I think your interpretations
are spot-on. So let's extrapolate. If your current policies are losing you
support, bringing out the political and media 'sharks,' why not consider
altering your policies, perhaps moving closer to the center, so you can
get more of your programs passed?"
"For one thing, we can't be sure the people would vote for my
policies these days. Besides, I told you: That way says to the people, and
especially to my supporters: 'I was wrong, my policies were wrong.' That
makes me look weak. If a President appears weak, he loses his clout,
people are not afraid of him any longer, and thus he becomes even
"But the dream seems to be telling you that your behaviors and
policies have already weakened you. But let's put that political aspect
aside for now; the key question outside the dream is: What are you really
afraid of, deep down, that keeps you from making the necessary compromises
politicians must make?"
(Long silence.) "I'd be seen as what my parents and others have
called me all my life; I'd be a "loser," someone with no
intelligence to get things done effectively, just living off the
reputations and assistance of others. This office was going to change that
for me. We were thinking big, moving big in the world, and in the country;
sure, people thought we were cocky and arrogant, but it was more that we
were absolutely sure we were doing the right thing so why compromise with
those who disagreed? God chose me to save the country, to fight the Evil
Ones, and to change the world for the better, don't forget that."
SAVING THE LEGACY
"Yes, I do understand you feel that way. But I keep getting back
to the central question: Your way, the barrel-on-through approach,
confronting and threatening, seems to have alienated not only your enemies
but many of your friends as well. Unless you're willing to fight to the
end, simply continuing those behaviors that used to work for you in the
past, then you'll have to make adjustments to save yourself and your
legacy. And, I might add, to avoid impeachment."
"Yes, we may have to make a few tactical adjustments in these months
before the November election, so we can hold onto the House and thus stave
off any possible impeachment hearings there -- and maybe criminal charges
later. But my advisors and I are determined in the next two years to
continue to play hard-ball with our enemies and those who desert us.
That's the strategy that got us here, and kept our political enemies
totally flummoxed. We will stay the course in Iraq; we will continue to
roll back governmental regulation of corporations; we will rule from the
Unitary Executive position; we will monitor all communications, domestic
and foreign, and, if it comes to it, we'll force a constitutional crisis
and trust that our court appointees will rule in our favor."
"And if that doesn't work and you and the Vice President are
impeached? Would you resign rather than put yourself and the country
through a trial in the Senate?"
"I don't think it will come to that, but if it does, we'll take it to
the very end and let the chips fall where they may."
"May I speak freely here, sir?
"Of course. You're a rich psychiatrist who has been most generous to
the party; you're a Pioneer. Besides, you don't have an agenda, so it's
easier to listen to you."
"You used the word 'chips.' Many fellow Republicans might well
respond that you're not playing poker here, sir. Those 'chips,' they might
say, are the Constitution, and the GOP, and the people of this country,
and your wife and your girls and, and other nations, and your -- you're
really willing to take the country down with you, if it comes to
SPREADING THE BLAME
"I said you could speak freely, but you're taking liberties, Mr.
Shrink. Watch what you say. Anyway, if we are taken down, it won't be my
fault. It'll be the partisan Democrats, getting revenge for what we did to
Clinton, and the weak-kneed in our own GOP ranks who couldn't take the
heat, and the Iraqis, who would do anything to get back at me for invading
them, and the people for electing me, and the neo-cons -- a number of them
are Jewish, by the way, which will come in very handy in assigning blame.
Our forces will take a hit, sure, but we'll reorganize our true-patriot
movement and go after those evil ones who 'lost Iraq' -- the cowardly
moderate Republicans, the slimy Democrats, the Iraqi terrorists, the Black
Caucus, the Islamists, the Jews, the liberal internet wackos -- and we'll
be back in a few years. And I'll be regarded as a saviour of our cause who
was done in by forces of Satan. I won't go off with my tail between my
legs, but brandishing a sword of vengeance and faith."
"Do you really believe all that?"
"No, of course not, at least not all of it. But it'll play out there
in the Red states, and I'm young enough, I'll be around to give it a
"All this is very interesting. But let me, as your consulting
therapist, offer an alternative idea about your situation. It's just a
theory, so tell me if I've gone wrong here. It's possible that you are
indeed in a swamp, but it's not just oil but a moral quagmire that derives
from the blood you have to spill daily to maintain your control of those
resources, and, in a sense, even to keep control of yourself. In this
interpretation, that's why you're so agitated and depressed. There's no
implication that you're a bad man or a 'loser' in this regard; lots of
presidents, even the best ones, found themselves in that same area of
moral ambiguity when sending young men and women to die in wars."
"I don't like where you're going with this, doc. I'm warning
"Another way of looking at your situation, as one reason your poll
numbers have fallen so precipitously, is that the country senses that
you've been sucked down in that swamp not only by external enemies and
situations but by your own choices. In this view, you're a Faustian
character who exchanged his soul for power and control -- but it's not
just you who is suffering because of it. The country as a whole is feeling
the impact of your decisions, in a wide variety of areas, and realizes
that since you're incapable of or unwilling to alter the course of your
policies -- or even to acknowledge that you might have made some major
errors -- they have to move in a different direction.
"I know this interpretation might not be easy to hear, but I'm
offering it as a possibility, something you might want to think about. In
my professional opinion, you need to do something, quickly, sir, to ease
the internal pressures building up in you. I say all this both to help
save your presidency, since I still believe you're capable of greatness,
and to save you, since your psyche is too delicately balanced right now,
and I don't want to see you go over the edge into a total breakdown."
"You're just trying to tear me down, like the rest of them. I warned
you. I hope you enjoy your stay in Gitmo, fella. Guards! Take him
away!" [They start to exit.]
"I know this session may have been really painful for you, sir,
but if you change your mind once your anger subsides, you'll know where to
find me." [Exits.]
"Shrinks! Meddling bastards! [picks up red phone] Rummy,
shock-and-awe, baby! It's Iran time." #
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner