Saturday, December 13, 2008

The disability connections to the Blagojevich scandal

The AP reports that "the [Illinois] attorney general asked the court for a temporary restraining order or an injunction that prevents Blagojevich from serving as governor. The filing says he is 'unable to serve as governor due to disability and should not rightfully continue to hold that office.' 'The pervasive nature and severity of these pending charges disable Mr. Blagojevich from making effective decisions on critical, time-sensitive issues,' the filing said.

The NY Times reports that on Dec. 12 Gov. Blagojevich "signed a bill ensuring health coverage for families with children who suffer from autism."

Finally, many pundits and journalists have questioned whether Gov. Blagojevich may have an actual mental illness. The AP medical writer Lindsey Tanner did a story on this topic. Here's the section of the story that interviewed psychologists:

New York City therapist Jonathan Alpert said he was struck by "the grandiosity, the grand sense of self and entitlement," the arrogance.

Those traits are consistent with a mental condition called narcissistic personality disorder, he said. Its other symptoms can include taking advantage of others for personal gain and lack of empathy.

That could be a cynical job description for politicians. They are, after all, often lured to the job at least partly by the heady sense of power it promises. And Alpert said just having some of those behaviors doesn't guarantee mental illness.

Chicago psychoanalyst Mark Smaller said Blagojevich's alleged behavior seems to have gone beyond bad judgment.

"This is somebody who knew he was being investigated, so you would think that would be the type of person" who wouldn't want to increase the probability of being caught, Smaller said.

Instead, according to the complaint against Blagojevich, he conspired to sell or trade Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat in recent weeks, knowing he was the target of a longtime federal probe of alleged pay-to-play politics.

Just a day before FBI agents arrested Blagojevich at his home Dec. 9, he defiantly told reporters he didn't care about reports he was being secretly taped because his words were "always lawful."

Smaller said the self-destructiveness is stunning: "There's something going on here that doesn't look like normal political corruption."

Still, some experts suggest that being in a position of power can make people feel they are impervious to danger. David Levy, a psychology professor at Pepperdine University's graduate school, said there's no easy answer when it comes to Blagojevich.

"There really is no clear line between what's normal and pathological," he said.