Friday, March 16, 2012

Newt Gingrich Faces the Punditry, Who Substitute As Professional Psychologists

There's just enough seriousness in this otherwise tongue-in-cheek post about Gingrich's irrational exuberance to further corrode what is already pretty cheap political discourse about the Presidential primaries. Granted, The Atlantic's Robert Wright is mostly trying to have a chuckle in wondering aloud why the Newtster is still in the game. (Jacob Weisberg of Slate offered a similar assessment of Gingrich here in December.) After all, for what justifiable reason would Gingrich want to keep his name in the hat, now that he's given up the game in his own backyard of Mississippi and Alabama? Wright's conclusion: vengeance, egomania...and a lil' bipolar disorder mixed in. Robert--the ICD 9 code for chronic hypomanic disorder is 301.11: bill for that baby!

Not surprisingly, we've seen this before, not long after the 2008 election when Sarah Palin had her own "Personality Disorder Problem"--that is, having a psychiatric diagnosis applied by lazy journalists who seem to think that just because they don't like someone it gives them carte blanche to label them as mentally ill. Sorry, we at the Billy Rubin Blog just ain't amused.

From my vantage point, Gingrich seems like a kind-of non-felonious Republican version of Rod Blagojevich. He certainly seems to be an egomaniac. I suppose that he's pursuing a political vendetta against Romney and could thus be described as "vengeful", though he surely was goaded into that by Romney's attack ads, no? ("Vengeance" is a word I'm more inclined to immediately associate with that sweet Texan with the cuddly nickname "The Hammer", former US Representative Tom DeLay, but that's just me.)

But manic? Or even, since Wright tried to cover his tuchus a bit, hypomanic? Umm...most likely no. Key features of hypomania include pressured speech (Gingrich's speech is fairly slow and deliberate), easy distractibility, hyperactivity or "psychomotor agitation", and flight of ideas (a semi-technical term indicating a total inability to stay on topic even briefly). While there's more than a bit of grandiosity in Gingrich's speeches (yes, I've been listening to them the past few Tuesday nights), there's really nothing else in the clinical definition to indicate that Newt needs lithium.

Now, if you want to see agitated replies to questions or some pressured speech, you may want to find recent clips of Mitt Romney speaking.

Surprisingly, despite guffawing at Gingrich's tilt at the windmill, Wright himself offers up a perfectly rational analysis, however remote, of why Gingrich should stay in the race: in the 1920 Republican primaries, a man named Leonard Wood had the most delegates coming into the convention, though the nominee turned out to be Warren Harding, who was in a measly sixth at the outset of the horse trading. So, wildly improbable though such chances are, Gingrich has a shot.

There's no doubt that a heavy dose of ego is required to run for President of the United States, and Newt Gingrich possesses grandiosity in sufficiently hefty amounts. I don't object to a bit of snark to his silliness; I do object to turning that snark into a joke about the mentally ill--who, lest we forget, often have very real difficulty functioning in the world and don't live the charmed life of a pampered former lobbyist gunning to live in a pretty big mansion in Washington.

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