Thursday, October 11, 2007


I don’t know which is more disappointing, the news about Senator Larry Craig or some of the reactions to that news. The shock wakes of scandal that have engulfed the GOP in recent years shouldn’t surprise us. It is a well known psychological fact that the repressed parts of our individual personality (our shadow) must be contained, projected, or acted out in some fashion. In one extreme the repression leads to fanaticism, i.e., to an overcompensation for doubt. In the other extreme, there are visits to brothels, gropings in men’s rooms, beatings of those unfortunate enough to carry a projection for us. An inability to hear and understand someone radically different from ourselves is an attempt to escape the radically different in ourselves.

What is true for the individual is also true for the Party.

Along with the implosion of the Republican Party in recent years, there is the oft-asked question of why our good intentions often lead to such disastrous and unintended consequences. Most of us believe George Bush decides and acts out of a fine intentionality. Unfortunately, we see what disastrous consequences lurk behind the high-flown rhetoric about democracy, God’s will, and honing to the philosophy of Jesus Christ. Whence the catastrophic disparity? We need look only to the psychological mechanism of shadow repression for an answer.

Containment of shadow elements of our personality can actually lead to considerable character development. Look at recent reports that Mother Theresa long entertained doubts about the existence of God. Her ability to admit to the doubts and her courage to go on in her work in spite of them, only enhance her reputation as someone fully human—like us.

Or President Clinton. It was his final and full confession, his profession of great sorrow, and his hard work of reconstructing all he had forfeited that won back the hearts and minds of his family, of the American People, indeed of the world. No one doubts the days and nights of anguish and sorrow Clinton suffered or the suffering he visited on others.

During this difficult period, others (Larry Craig and Newt Gingrich, Tim Hutchinson, to name just three) were calling for President Clinton’s head. To hear them tell it, Clinton was unfit to be president, a sinner beyond forgiveness or redemption, even “a naughty boy.” We now know what lay beneath their dark condemnations. We can understand their deep need for someone to carry their unbearable projections.

Clinton did the psychological work of integrating his shadow, and he emerged a better man, more fully human. The shadow sides of Craig, Gringrich, and Hutchinson have essentially destroyed their careers and wrested away their power. They erred on the side of an understandable desire to appear more fully divine, i.e., without fault, omnipotent, and righteous. Turns out, it is a most difficult task to be and appear more fully human.

What a different outcome we might have had over the past six-plus years were Bush able to entertain, contain, and even integrate his shadow side—his grab for absolute power, his demands to be the “Decider,” his inability to admit error, his imperial disregard for anyone who is not on his side, his inability to see that he is the maker of his own unintended consequences. Bush suffers from the human fallacy of the divine right of kings. He, and we, would fare much better if Bush were interested in being a really decent human being.

Bush had the opportunity to be a Lincoln. Instead, he will go down in history as a Hoover. The story is told that in the depths of the depression, Hoover thought the nation needed a song to “cheer it up.” He got his song: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” Bush’s song??? “Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”

Now, that most difficult question: What does Bush carry for me and for many Democrats?