Diane Rehm: "Why do you think he [Bush] is suppressing that [Sept. 11] report?"
Howard Dean: "I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far -- which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved -- is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is?"
-- "The Diane Rehm Show," NPR, Dec. 1
It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: "Secondary Mania," Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven't been looking for new ones. But it's time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land.
Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency -- nay -- the very existence of George W. Bush. Now, I cannot testify to Howard Dean's sanity before this campaign, but five terms as governor by a man with no visible tics and no history of involuntary confinement is pretty good evidence of a normal mental status. When he avers, however, that "the most interesting" theory as to why the president is "suppressing" the Sept. 11 report is that Bush knew about Sept. 11 in advance, it's time to check on thorazine supplies. When Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) first broached this idea before the 2002 primary election, it was considered so nutty it helped make her former representative McKinney. Today the Democratic presidential front-runner professes agnosticism as to whether the president of the United States was tipped off about 9/11 by the Saudis, and it goes unnoticed. The virus is spreading.
It is, of course, epidemic in New York's Upper West Side and the tonier parts of Los Angeles, where the very sight of the president -- say, smiling while holding a tray of Thanksgiving turkey in a Baghdad mess hall -- caused dozens of cases of apoplexy in otherwise healthy adults. What is worrying epidemiologists about the Dean incident, however, is that heretofore no case had been reported in Vermont, or any other dairy state.
Moreover, Dean is very smart. Until now, Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) had generally struck people with previously compromised intellectual immune systems. Hence its prevalence in Hollywood. Barbra Streisand, for example, wrote her famous September 2002 memo to Dick Gephardt warning that the president was dragging us toward war to satisfy, among the usual corporate malefactors who "clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq," the logging industry -- timber being a major industry in a country that is two-thirds desert.
It is true that BDS has struck some pretty smart guys -- Bill Moyers ranting about a "right-wing wrecking crew" engaged in "a deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States way of governing" and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, whose recent book attacks the president so virulently that Krugman's British publisher saw fit to adorn the cover with images of Vice President Cheney in a Hitler-like mustache and Bush stitched up like Frankenstein. Nonetheless, some observers took that to be satire; others wrote off Moyers and Krugman as simple aberrations, the victims of too many years of neurologically hazardous punditry.
That's what has researchers so alarmed about Dean. He had none of the usual risk factors: Dean has never opined for a living and has no detectable sense of humor. Even worse is the fact that he is now exhibiting symptoms of a related illness, Murdoch Derangement Syndrome (MDS), in which otherwise normal people believe that their minds are being controlled by a single, very clever Australian.
Chris Matthews: "Would you break up Fox?"
Howard Dean: "On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but . . . I don't want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not. . . . What I'm going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."
Some clinicians consider this delusion -- that Americans can get their news from only one part of the political spectrum -- the gravest of all. They report that no matter how many times sufferers in padded cells are presented with flash cards with the symbols ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, PBS, Time, Newsweek, New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times -- they remain unresponsive, some in a terrifying near-catatonic torpor.
The sad news is that there is no cure. But there is hope. There are many fine researchers seeking that cure. Your donation to the BDS Foundation, no matter how small, can help. Mailing address: Republican National Committee, Washington, D.C., Attention: psychiatric department. Just make sure your amount does not exceed $2,000 ($4,000 for a married couple).