Let us return to 2005, the year the American voter realized it had made a terrible mistake in the election the year before. You remember, if 2004, the voters were promised that Bush would “Get the fags!” But once re-elected, the voters found they had voted to “Privatize Social Security!” If ever there was a simple example of What’s the Matter With Kansas? it was Bush and his craven use of a conservative social issue to push a conservative economic wet dream. But 2005 also stands as the ultimate example of conservative overreach: Terri Schiavo.
As you may remember, Schiavo was an unfortunate woman in Florida who had a heart attack in her home. Due to lack of oxygen, she had massive brain damage. After 15 years, doctors had diagnosed that she was in a persistent vegetative state — that is to say, she was more or less what we think of as a zombie; she was no longer Terri Schiavo but rather just a body with a functioning brain stem. It was a tragic situation. Her husband wanted to end her suffering and move on with his life; her parents understandably wanted to hang on.
So the parents put together a video tape of their interactions with her. It was cut together from hours of tape, throwing together all the moments when it seemed as though Schiavo was responding to them. I don’t think they were meaning to be dishonest. When the will to believe is strong, one can be convinced of just about anything. I see no villains in the actions of any of the people directly involved. But the Terri Schiavo case did not stay confined with those directly involved.
First, the Florida Republicans got involved. It passed “Terri’s Law” that allowed Jeb Bush to take control and have Schiavo’s feeding tub reinserted. When the law was found to be unconstitutional, the case ended up at the Federal Level. And that’s when Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist got involved. You see, he is a physician — a heart surgeon. And in one of the great acts of hubris, he countered the doctors’ diagnosis, even though they had actually spent time with Schiavo to determined her condition, “I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.” It was also, of course, an ethical breach. It was clear that he was just saying what was politically expedient and using his medical degree to provide a patina of legitimacy. It amazes me that such actions do not cause doctors to lose their licenses.
But as bad as the 2005 Republican Party was, it really doesn’t hold a candle to the modern Republican Party. And this is especially evident on the RNC propaganda channel known as Fox News. I’ve been reminded a lot of Dr Frist when I’ve heard psychiatrist Keith Ablow who has been on the station for years as part of its “Medical A-Team.” (God help those treated by the “B-Team”!) And in that capacity, he has been psychoanalyzing President Obama, who he has determined has abandonment issues that cause him to hate white people. Here’s a good collection put together by Madia Matters for America:
Remember: this is the kind of stuff coming from the authoritarian conservatives. They have absolute respect for their own leaders and are shocked (“Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”) that anyone would even disagree with them. But they automatically treat opposing leaders as though they were common criminals. And Ablow is about the worst that they come. He is more than willing to prostitute his psychiatric degree for political gain. It is hard not to conclude that Ablow would have been one of those Nazi doctors doing “experiments” at the concentration camps. But I can’t say for sure, because just as with Ablow regarding President Obama and Frist regarding Schiavo, I have never met the man.
On Thursday, David Bauder at the Associate Press reported on a little push back, Fox‘s Ablow Regularly “Diagnoses” Obama. It contains a number of quotes from psychiatrists who are bothered by what Ablow does and how it reflects on the profession — something Ablow certainly doesn’t care about. But I was struck with the fact that even people at the crazy Media Research Center have a problem with him. Tim Graham criticized the whole issue of psychoanalyzing the president.
But he bugged me by noting that people on the left said that Bush the younger had “daddy issues.” This is false equivalence. To begin with, people were making a common observation, not a psychological diagnosis. Regardless, it was not psychiatrists coming on television claiming that they were objective scientists and they knew that Bush was invading Iraq because he was trying to prove to the world that his penis was bigger than his father’s.
It speaks poorly of our society that Ablow is not just considered unacceptable. Certainly he would have been at any time before the creation of Fox News. And I really do think that this is an important event. I doubt that Terri Schiavo would have been such a big deal without Fox News and all the rest of the right wing echo chamber. It creates a place where they can all get together and talk themselves into believing anything. And the nation is far worse off as a result.