Bush’s hero complex


In 1968 George W. Bush was coasting into adulthood with a new Yale B.A. and plans for a Harvard MBA. All the perks of two Ivy League degrees and of being his father’s son were within his reach.

Unfortunately an inconvenient war got in the way. For George W. Bush, as for so many others, the draft notice could come in the mail any day.

So he chose to use privilege to get into the Texas Air National Guard.

In the Air National Guard, Bush became a fighter pilot. He could have asked to be trained as a transport pilot and still gotten his wings and flown a military aircraft. He still could have worn an aviator jacket like his father did in World War II.

Instead he applied for and was accepted in the fighter pilot training program, the most dangerous Air National Guard job going.

In the Texas Air National Guard George W. Bush learned to fly a jet, became a second lieutenant and got his wings. He flew the Convair F-102 Delta Dagger fighter.

He was a fighter jock with enough of the fabled right stuff to fly a plane with flames coming out of its ass.

If George W. Bush wanted to outdo his father who was a true war hero,* he couldn’t do it stateside. He could only achieve the external trappings of being a hero. Real heroes were being made in Vietnam.

Perhaps if he knew then what he knows now about politics, he might have even volunteered for Vietnam duty. After all, some contend that John Kerry choose a combat assignment because he knew it would look good on a future political resume.

But at the time George W. Bush chose the safest path which was a stint on the home front, featuring irregular attendance at training schools, a transfer to Alabama to assist in a senatorial campaign and finally, an departure for Harvard six months early.

Flash forward forty years. No longer a mere National Guard second lieutenant, George W. Bush is at the pinnacle of the military hierarchy. He is the true “decider” of all things military. 2nd Lt. George W. Bush has gone from wearing a single shiny brass bar on his uniform to being the commander of a bevy of four star generals.

Tragically for Bush and the nation, hero status still eludes the father’s son. However, his quest for it fervently continues.

He finds himself leading a war he is unable to extricate himself from. Listening to the advice of his top military officers and other experts as to how to get out of Iraq, for him, equals an admission of defeat.

George W. Bush’s quest for heroism is inextricably linked to his shaky self-identity. In order to achieve goals he thinks are heroic he must prove a cadre of experts wrong and defy his critics by bringing democracy to Iraq.

I think that Bush’s admitting defeat would be truly heroic because it would mean he was accepting a crushing blow to a self-image composed of repressed feelings of inadequacy.

The young pilot who flew a fighter jet in Texas and Alabama during the Vietnam War can’t accept that there’s another kind of heroism that comes with admitting when you’re wrong.

*Papa Bush flew in World War II, engaged in heavy air combat, and even had to bail out when his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire. He flew 58 combat missions and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation.

(Hal Brown is a clinical social worker and former mental health center director who is mostly retired from his private psychotherapy practice. He writes on the psychopathology of public figures and other topics that pique his interest. He can be found online at www.stressline.com)

26 Responses to "Bush’s hero complex"

  1. Bill Jonke   February 13, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Maybe there’s a presidential suite at Bellevue.

    It seems that it’s ripe for occupancy.

    We could call it Looney Bin One.

  2. Joe Lawrence   February 13, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    I wonder whether Hal Brown will soonestkind be attacked by the right-wingnuts for wrongly categorizing the Bushquest, when he wrote, “he must prove a cadre of experts wrong and defy his critics by bringing democracy to Iraq.”

    Everyone who’s anyone knows the intention is to spread ‘Democratic Representative Republicanism.’ In the event you don’t believe me, just ask Rush, Sean, Bildo and the other girls, each or any of whom will be condescendingly pleased to inform your understanding of our very own form of government.

    Screw them, and screw anyone who remains a supporter of this most corrupt and dangerous administration, ever.

  3. Gerald Sutliff   February 13, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you for your insightful comments. Adding my own: GWB has, in addition to his hero complex has what I would call The Alamo Complex. He sees America as a last stand against enemies of all colors and stripes and is willing to stand there to the last man, woman and child.

    Actually he’s insane; he got that way because he’s been in the company of “Yes men” all this life. Deep down he knows that they’re wrong but can’t face it.

  4. Lysistrata   February 13, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    But Cheney is not a yes man, where does he fit in? By all appearances it is Cheney running the show and Bush collects the applause. Cheney will want his recognition too, will we ever find out how this administration functions?

  5. Carl Nemo   February 13, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    There may be some truth to Hal’s analysis concerning Bush’s head issues, but folks seem to forget that this war is about “OIL”…! Cheney is sitting on 250,000 “deep-in-the-money” stock options courtesy of Halliburton and the Bush family has financial ties to the Carlyle Group the worlds 8th largest arms supplier among many other holdings in defense and oil related industries. It’s in the Bush/Cheney family interest to keep us in Iraq at least through 2009 so they can cash-in on their ill-gotten lucre. If Iraq had no oil, rest assured we wouldn’t be there trying to establish a democratic form of government. Also the PNAC, neo-cons have an interest in establishing permanent military bases in Iraq; at least they had hopes of doing so. We used to have quite a presence in Saudi Arabia but that presence has been reduced to zero post 911 due to the perceived instability of the Saudi regime etc. Also the Saudi’s felt pressure from Muslim radicals to disassociate themselves from the US military etc. So although all this psychological profile analysis sounds reasonable it has little to do with Bushco’s tenacious grip on a failed paradigm. If we were to withdraw from Iraq within the next 6-8 months the price of oil would plummet to the low 40’s making a lot of folks in the “oil patch” very unhappy. Russia, the Middle East, and even low yield stripper wells througout Texas and Oklahoma are enjoying this “pumped” price of oil due to our bogus involvement in Iraq. Also the M.I. Complex would be having a big “ouch” due to all the cancelled contracts for weaponry etc. Plain and simple, it’s all about “OIL” and the care and feeding the M.I. complex…!

  6. Nick   February 13, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    What one idiot can do in short time,

    will take 2 generations to fix.

  7. Kent Shaw   February 13, 2007 at 9:22 pm


    Carl Nemo said: “It’s in the Bush/Cheney family interest to keep us in Iraq at least through 2009 so they can cash-in on their ill-gotten lucre.”


    Absolutely. But I’d also love to have a peek at the Clintons’ and Pelosis’ stock portfolios. Wouldn’t THAT be interesting?


  8. Kent Shaw   February 13, 2007 at 9:23 pm


    In fact, if I get an opportunity to attend a Hillary event I will strive to ask her if she owns any Halliburton stock.


  9. Kent Shaw   February 13, 2007 at 9:30 pm


    I just went to Hillary’s website and sent her the following email message. What are the odds of a reply other than a standard boilerplate “thank you for your conceerns”?


    Does Senator Clinton own any stock in Halliburton or any of its subsidiaries such as KBR? Is Senator Clinton connected in any financial sense with The Carlyle Group? Does Senator Clinton have any plans to admit that it was a mistake, that she was wrong to vote in favor of the AUMF resolution?


  10. Carl Nemo   February 13, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Kent for some commentary concerning “Billary’s” investments. If she and Bill are operating in the same mode as they did when they were involved with the quasi-criminal Arkansas Development Commission in the 80’s allowing the CIA to operate an airbase in Mena, Arkanasas (illegal) for the facilitation of the Iran/Contra guns for drugs connection to Central America; then rest assured they’ve gotten hot investment tips from Pappy Bush! Many folks don’t realize that that the Bushistas and the Clintonistas have a very cozy co-op arrangement concerning their dynastic White House tenure. Hillary “is” the annointed one; i.e., it’s now her turn, and if they have to use the “Diebold Override” to insure such an outcome, they will do so!

  11. Kent Shaw   February 13, 2007 at 10:16 pm


    Dear Friend:

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with me

    via e-mail. I hope you will understand that, because of the volume of

    e-mails I receive from residents of New York State, I cannot at this time

    respond to messages received from residents of other states. I encourage

    you to contact your U.S. senators if you have an issue or concern that

    needs immediate attention. You can access your senators electronically by

    visiting http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm for a listing

    of their contact information. If you are still interested in learning

    more about the work I am doing on behalf of New York State, I hope you

    will continue to monitor my work through my website at



    Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

    New York State


    ’nuff said.

  12. ron kay   February 14, 2007 at 12:00 am

    what did you people expect ???

    this is exactly what you get when you let an arrogant spoiled little rich kid no talent sociopathic, irresponsible, chicken hawk coward frat boy….play “president”.

    It’s almost like having Paris Hilton for president, but his tits are bigger.

    oh….and …… where’s Osama ?!?!?

  13. Jason Shapiro   February 14, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Query for Hal Brown – I know this is all speculative and you will never actually get a chance to interview Bush, but what are the chances that this intellectually and emotionally challenged individual has a breakdown in the next two years? Can he be so disassociated with the things going on around him that his essential obliviousness keeps his psyche in order? could we end up with another Woodrow Wilson except that Cheney would officially be in charge?

  14. Kent Shaw   February 14, 2007 at 2:08 am


    Osama who?


  15. The South Point   February 14, 2007 at 2:22 am

    Bush belongs in Leavenworth. In a cell next to Cheney’s. Which is next to Rumsfield’s. Which is next to Gonzales’. Which is next to Gates’. Which is next to Ashcroft’s. Which is next to…


    Note the Psychology Services. Let Bush’s mental state be Leavenworth’s problem.

  16. Cashel Boylo   February 14, 2007 at 7:04 am

    Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report has done the world a big favor in publicizing Bush’s farting and his infantile glee in his performance of this simple body function. This snippet of info may explain a great deal.

    Many, maybe most psychologists will tell you that compulsive farting is an indicator of deep-seated mental illness, a less severe form of the compulsive defecation, anywhere and everywhere, that delights many lunatics, usually confined and generally rather stupid.

    The behavior, and perhaps the stupidity, is commonly believed to stem from an emotionally deprived childhood.

    An emotionally starved child soon learns that he can get attention from his cold, negligent or perhaps cruel parents by filling his diaper. The worse the smell, the sooner and greater the attention.

    The resultant attention might include a beating, which often reinforces the aberrant behavior. It might hurt, but it is attention and the child is content to pay the price.

    Of course there is a much higher price unknown to the unfortunate infant.

    The behavior becomes ingrained, as does the emotional and intellectual confusion. The child fails to develop both emotionally and intellectually and the result is often a drastically immature and stupid adult who will do just about anything for attention and gratification — torture frogs, snort coke, drive drunk, dodge duty, lie, invade non-hostile countries, pose as a “mission accomplished” war hero, torture prisoners.

    Joe Scarborough has famously posed the question: “Is Bush an idiot?”

    Maybe the real question should be: “Is Bush an idiot lunatic?”

    Is it possible that the people really to blame for the multiple disasters of this administration are George H. W. and Barbara?

    Cashel Boylo http://cashelboylo.blogspot.com

  17. Cashel Boylo   February 14, 2007 at 7:30 am

    Big George

    (To the tune of “Long John Blues” as recorded by Dinah Washington)

    Oh we got a president thinks he ten feet tall

    We got a president he think he ten feet tall

    But when we look hard at him

    Why, there ain’t no man there at all

    He don’t fly no plane, don’t drive no car

    Falls offa his bike, can’t play guitar

    Can’t knock a nail in a little bit o’ wood

    Yet he took us to war – ‘cos God said he should

    Says he talks to God ‘most every day

    Yet loves scheming rogues like Tom DeLay

    Despises Constitution, of paper a scrap

    Made to be avoided and treated like crap

    Rides a mountain bike but keeps away from hills

    Loves to wear uniform, war gives him the thrills

    Loves to dodge duty, breaks his oath at will

    Hell, I’m a war president, I’ll do what I will.

  18. Helen Rainier   February 13, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn about what Dubya’s repressed/self-identity problems are. His problems and his refusal to deal with them are causing death and destruction to too many people and to this country. Someone needs to stage an intervention and have him committed for an in-depth psychiatric evaluation. He is clearly a danger to others at this point. I don’t give a damn if he’s a danger to himself. He could try self-immolation and I wouldn’t lift a hand to stop him. But when he starts wreaking devastation on multitudes of others he’s a danger to society at large.

  19. Jason Shapiro   February 13, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Mr. Brown may be dead on in his commentary but the psychological issues surrounding Bush are much wider and deeper. This is someone who was brought up in one of those “high expectations” families, but has been out of his intellectual depth since the 8th grade. Bush is someone who has literally never succeeded at anything that was not fixed for him by mommy, daddy, and friends. This apparent need for faux heroism is consistent with the exaggerated self importance often attributed to “dry drunks.” When coupled with his otherwise narrow-minded rigidity and his irrational refusal to accept either criticism or counsel from anyone who deviates in the slightest from his preconceived notions, we may be in for more trouble than we know over the next two years.

  20. Hal Brown   February 13, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Early last year on Reader Rant (lost in some kind of cyber-glitch in the archives) I worte some long posts about Bush’s psychopathology. I basically agreed with psychoanalsyt Justin Frank, MD ( author of “Bush on the Couch”) that Bush, among other diagnoses, suffered from narcissistic personality disorder.

    You can see what you think by reading about this disorder by copying and pasting this into your address bar:

    Narcissistic personality disorder:


    Since then other therapists have taken on Bush’s mental status with pretty much the same conclusions which Dr. Frank and I came to.

    Most recently the father and son (psychiatrist and psychologist) team of Briggs and Briggs have written excellent aritcles on this for Truthout.com.

    The most recent ones are

    Why Bush’s Inner “Reality” Has Poisoned His Own Troop Plan


    and “Bush and the Psychology of Incompetent Decisions”


    Unfortunately an in depth psychiatric evaluation will only ascertain that Bush suffers from the disorders obversers in the mental health field have already determined he has.

    He doesn’t meet the legal criteria for being a danger to himself or literally at his own hands being a danger to others (even though in the case of the later, he does through the decisions he makes). Thus he can’t be committed to a mental hospital.

  21. Sandy Price   February 13, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you Hal for voicing your professional evaluation, confirming our own fears that one sad sicko sits in the Oval Office.

    Jason and Helen are correct in their replies and we could be in for some heavy problems in the next 2 years.

    Helen, society is in grave danger, and Bush has kept himself so far from all Americans that he is untouchable. I wish him no personal harm but maybe chains might be solution……

  22. JimZ   February 13, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    I’d bet Dubya keeps a Superman costume in the Oval Office closet. Too bad it doesn’t fit!

  23. Ray   February 13, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I don’t care what daddy bush did in his war, he is one of the major destroyers of this country and people will find out soon enough what these Bush Traitors are all about. ” If the american people knew what us Bushes have done to them, they would chase us down and hang us” George Bush Sr. The whole lot of them are criminal in polotics and in business. From conducting business with the enemy, to smuggling dope, money laundering, assasination, ballot stuffing, subversion, treason, pedophilia, and most of all lieing.

  24. marew   February 13, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Ray, you are absolutely right! I saw a bumper sticker the other day–‘There’s dirt under every bush.’

    I have always said if Dubya has REAL degrees form Yale and Harvard, I’m Cleopatra. Nothing like getting legecy degrees. Shows the rich and powerful can buy diplomas.

    And then there’s the fact that he is an untreated addict. People are only starting to realize how crazy he is. In the meantime, good people are dying and we’ll be paying the debt he runs up for decades to come.

  25. Ray   February 13, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    It should be very clear to everyone that there is no way things in Iraq are going to improve. Not this year, not next year, never. There is two battle groups in the gulf and a third on the way. The cabal has all bases covered that will allow the end of america as we know it. Does anyone actually see this administration backing out of this debacle in the middle east? Isreal is just putting our forces where they will be used for expansionism. If you want to know who is benefiting from this slaughter besides big oil and halliburton, consider who is lobbying the hardest to get us in a war with Iran. It doesn’t take a large amount of sense to see the eliphant in the living room.

  26. remoran   February 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    It goes beyond anything I have ever seen in a president. Nixon is God compared to this horrible inarticulate socialpath we have as our president. The commentary from everyone is dead on regarding the negative impact the Bushes have had on this country. I love the blurb “There’s dirt under every bush.” That.s awesome.