March 4, 2007

“If had it to do over again, I’d have kept him. I didn’t know anything about mental illness. Nobody did.”

Said George McGovern last year, referring to his rejection of Tom Eagleton back in 1972 -- when supposedly no one knew a damned thing. McGovern chose Eagleton as his running mate after Eagleton had assured McGovern's aide Frank Mankiewicz that he had nothing unusual in his background:
He did not tell Mr. Mankiewicz that he had been hospitalized three times for depression and that his treatment had twice involved electroshock therapy.

But rumors began circulating among politicians and journalists. Mr. Eagleton ultimately held a news conference on July 25 in Custer, S.D., where he had just briefed the vacationing Mr. McGovern over breakfast. Mr. Eagleton told reporters that he had been treated for “nervous exhaustion.” But in response to questions, he acknowledged that the treatment had included psychiatric counseling and electric shocks.

That day Mr. McGovern said, “I think Tom Eagleton is fully qualified in mind, body and spirit to be the vice president of the United States and, if necessary, to take on the presidency on a moment’s notice.” A few days later, as objections to Mr. Eagleton began to mount, Mr. McGovern insisted that he was “1,000 percent for Tom Eagleton.”

But the pressure from party leaders, campaign contributors and members of McGovern’s own staff was unrelenting. On July 31, the candidates met again, this time in Washington, and Mr. McGovern forced him to withdraw. Mr. Eagleton stepped down after 18 days as the nominee, saying he had done so for the sake of “party unity.”
R.I.P. Thomas P. Eagleton.

Clearly, it was Eagleton who made the mistake. Even today, do we really know so much more about mental illness? And, if we do, would we say that someone who had been hospitalized three times for depression should be Vice President? It seems to me that McGovern would have rejected him if he'd known, as would any other competent presidential candidate then or now, and Eagleton's failure to disclose that information to Mankiewicz was an entirely separate reason to reject him. It was horrible when McGovern said "1,000 percent" and then got rid of him, but the biggest mistake there was saying "1,000 percent" instead of figuring out what to do quickly and accomplishing it diplomatically. Why does McGovern now say that he should have kept him? It must just be that he doesn't like his name associated with hostility toward persons with mental illness. Why not be kind and compassionate now that nothing is at stake?

61 comments:

NDC said...

It also makes you wonder if some Prozac would have fixed him right up.

The options in treating people for depression seem a lot better today.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Why does McGovern now say that he should have kept him? It must just be that he doesn't like his name associated with hostility toward persons with mental illness.

It seems more likely that he's just trying to say something nice about someone who has just died.

Peter Palladas said...

He was funny, and saw the ridiculous in things.

...Sounds pretty sane to me.

Aplomb said...

I don't think three episodes of depression severe enough to require hospitalization, without knowing more, would be enough to disqualify a VP candidate. I'd want to know how long they lasted, how severe they were, how debilitated he was (could he still make coherent decisions), and how well he responded to treatment. As it turns out, to my knowledge his illness didn't seriously affect his ability to serve as a Senator.

Remember, Cheney had four heart attacks before taking office as VP. People discussed it, but I don't remember anyone suggesting he was unfit to serve as VP just because it was quite possible he would be spending part of his term in a hospital getting treatment.

I don't think McGovern is being hypocritical, either. We do know more about depression, and McGovern likely knows now a lot more of the specific details of Eagleton's depression. To me, I see this as an admission that McGovern made a panicky political decision, when in hindsight he know knows Eagleton was fit to serve.

sembolina pilchard said...

I agree with the sympathy for the recently departed comment, but I believe Mr. McGovern's daughter passed away a few years back under circumstances that might have given him more empathy for what Mr. Eagleton may have experienced in life.

StephenB said...

Joseph Hovsep said: It seems more likely that he's just trying to say something nice about someone who has just died.

Except that he said it before Eagleton died...nearly a whole year, in fact.

Freder Frederson said...

Remember, Cheney had four heart attacks before taking office as VP. People discussed it, but I don't remember anyone suggesting he was unfit to serve as VP just because it was quite possible he would be spending part of his term in a hospital getting treatment.

I would hope that thirty-five years later, the general public would know a lot more about depression, the medical profession certainly does. It is a treatable medical condition, like high blood pressure or diabetes The mere fact that someone has been treated for it should not preclude them from being vice president, or president for that matter.

Apparently not though, as even well-educated Law Professors can still make shockingly ignorant statements about mental illness in general and depression in particular.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry, I'm compassionate about mental illness, but I don't want the President to have it. We have to rely on his judgment (and energy), and I don't think severe depression is acceptable. And, yes, I know they say Lincoln was a depressive.

Aplomb said...

Lincoln was more than a depressive, it pretty much dominated his whole life and outlook:

http://www.mcmanweb.com/article-225.htm

Out of ignorance, you are basically saying Lincoln was not fit to serve.

Peter Palladas said...

And, yes, I know they say Lincoln was a depressive.

So was Churchill. Could barely function on 'black dog' days without a crate of brandy. Never seemed to stop him winning the War.

I'm more scared by Blair and Bush who are never less than Sunny Jim happy. Maybe it's their medication makes them so chipper.

sembolina pilchard said...

Why is it "ignorant" for someone to express an opinion that their preference for a presidential candidate would be someone without a serious illness, whether it is a mental illness or otherwise? Lincoln would not have won the Republican nomination if he went around saying he was more than depressive, that "it pretty much dominated his whole life and outlook"? Was Lincoln ignorant for not going around saying this about himself? Did Churchill makes his "black dog" common knowledge? How does your version of "ignorance" equate with Roosevelt never making his handicap, er excuse me, wheelchair limitation, a focal point of any of his campaigns?

Joseph Hovsep said...

Except that he said it before Eagleton died...nearly a whole year, in fact.

Whoops. My bad.

Aplomb said...

Sembolina: Outright refusal to consider someone who suffers from depression to be an "acceptable" President rests on an ignorance about what many people who suffer it are nevertheless capable of accomplishing despite their misery. Ann is entitled to her opinion, I'm just saying it appears to be based on less than a full and fair understanding of depression -- i.e., her ignorance about what depression really is would have her remove a fairly large segment of society from consideration. Some people who suffer from depression could overcome it and become superb Presidents. Lincoln seemed to. Maybe Eagleton could have.

Roosevelt didn't highlight and in fact hid his physical limitations because he probably assumed, based on their ignorance, some voters would not find these limitations "acceptable" in a President. Nowadays no candidate would ever get away with the deception, and now hopefully people would realize that the wheelchair has no real impact on anyone's potential as President. But back then he was mindful that many voters might have rejected him out of ignorance, equating his condition with feebleness or unmanliness.

Ann Althouse said...

Face it. If Lincoln were a candidate today, he wouldn't have a chance if we knew that stuff. Actually, I consider it a little mentally ill just to believe you can be President, so every candidate is already disqualified in my book. But then I have to take one out of the discard pile. It's awful, but realistic!

me said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
me said...

Eagleton played a "sliding doors" role in my life. He offered a job to my dad, who then proceeded to quit the job he had. For some reaon, the job with Eagleton fell through, and my dad was then unemployed. Thankfully, my father ended up with a different job, which took him to Washington, DC, where I was born a few months later.

My mom wrote Senator Eagleton a nice note after the whole McGovern fiasco, and Senator Eagleton was very appreciative.

From my sources, Senator Eagleton was a wonderful person.

Freder Frederson said...

And yet Ann voted for a man who has as much as admitted that he is a recovering alcoholic. Now I am willing to call alcoholism an illness (a lot of people are a lot less kind) and I just wish that George Bush was more honest about his failings.

Why is it "ignorant" for someone to express an opinion that their preference for a presidential candidate would be someone without a serious illness, whether it is a mental illness or otherwise?

It is ignorant for Ann to imply that we have learned so little about depression that suffering from depression makes someones ability to serve as president suspect.

Gahrie said...

Remember, Cheney had four heart attacks before taking office as VP. People discussed it, but I don't remember anyone suggesting he was unfit to serve as VP just because it was quite possible he would be spending part of his term in a hospital getting treatment.

Really? I remember exactly this sentiment being prominently featured on every TV newscast.

Seven Machos said...

Fred -- Althouse also voted for a serial philanderer who hit on ugly and fat woman, evaded the draft, and got high a lot. You got a problem with that?

Ann Althouse said...

Freder: I think there's a big difference between "suffering from depression" and being hospitalized three times for depression. Many people go through lows that are enough to get a diagnosis of depression, but going to a mental hospital is a big deal, and going three times... come on! You're kidding. You don't want the whole country to rely on someone that unstable! Give me a break. You're just politically-correct bullshitting.

And I voted against Bush before I voted for him.

I voted for Al Gore. Now there is a solid tree of a man.

But when it was Bush versus Kerry... I'm sorry. Just on a mental level, who's more mental? If that's the question, the answer is: Kerry! Something's not quite right with that boy.

Theo Boehm said...

Kerry! Something's not quite right with that boy.

You've got that right.  Imus says that he's wonderful in person, but my wife heard him speak in person, and he made her skin crawl.

I voted for Al Gore. Now there is a solid tree of a man.

Yes, definitely the most wooden candidate in quite a while.

Cedarford said...

aplomb - Ann is entitled to her opinion, I'm just saying it appears to be based on less than a full and fair understanding of depression -- i.e., her ignorance about what depression really is would have her remove a fairly large segment of society from consideration.

The problem with "aplomb" and other true believers in the "therapeutic culture" is they believe all transgressors are "cured" in jail or by medical professionals and anyone that questions the fitness of anyone with a record of unfitness MUST BE IGNORANT because you have to believe in curabilty of all maladies....

At the time, not now when a magic pill may give confidence Eagleton wouldn't unravel...but at the time....it was the right call to not keep Eagleton on the ticket.

Other candidates or people in high importance jobs like airline pilot, CEO have had to drop out due to physical conditions or moral integrity issues (even if a shrink swears they have counseled the person back to full moral integrity, people still believe a person's record matters).

Few critical organizations can keep their top persons in position when invalided, therefore they screen to reduce those odds. Few organizations. The SCOTUS comes to mind as an exception as Douglas and Marshall continued long after being at the point where they would have been asked to retire or step down and stay down unless their condition improved. Same with Reinquist.

Atticus said...

"...serial philanderer who hit on ugly and fat woman..."

Is a philanderer a better man if he hits on beautiful and slender women? (Sorry for veering a bit off topic.)

Blair said...

Depression does NOT make people irrational, any more than appendicitis or a broken leg does. It IS ignorant to say otherwise. I think Ann has a poor understanding herself of what depression is. The Dick Cheney heart attack comparison is apt - there's actually no difference in practical terms between clogged arteries and low endorphin levels. They'll both lay you out and they'll both require treatment, but they certainly don't cloud your sound rational decisionmaking ability.

Ann Althouse said...

Blair: Depression does distort the perception of reality. I don't want national decisionmaking done through the lens of depression. Depression affects the mind. It's absurd to compare it to a broken leg.

johnstodder said...

In 1972, McGovern would have been careless to keep someone with that medical history on the ticket.

In 2007, with the treatments available, it would be a different thing. Eagleton probably wouldn't have found himself in a hospital, and even if he had, the prognosis would be far better for him now vs. then.

But this is nothing shocking. In 1972, there is no way Cheney would've been nominated for VP, or that McCain could even be a candidate. Eagleton was caught in a time warp. Unlike Lincoln, he was nominated in an era in which the press observed less and less of the old niceties. But unlike a depressed person today, easy treatment wasn't available.

I agree with whoever said depression doesn't cause you to become irrational. However, severe depression is simply disabling of one's ability to complete tasks, and it sounds like that's what was going on with Eagleton.

I was a passionate McGovern supporter and the episode with Eagleton was indescribably discouraging.

Palladian said...

"Depression does NOT make people irrational, any more than appendicitis or a broken leg does"

I'm sorry, but that's just not true. I don't want to get too personal here, but I can assure you that many who suffer from depression are irrational during depressive downturns. It's an illness that you never stop fighting, and if it's serious enough to warrant hospitalization, it does make certain career choices unrealistic. You have to understand your limitations.

Palladian said...

The treatments for depression before the advent of better drugs, like the SSRIs, were horrendous. ECT (shock treatments) often caused permanent damage, sometimes much worse damage than the original illness. A candidate that had received ECT back in the bad old days should cause serious concern about their fitness for an office that gives you the power to nuke the world into oblivion.

MJ said...

McGovern's daughter died a drunk here in Madison after repeated attempts at getting her sober. The McGovern family eventually adopted the "tough love" approach which didn't help Terry much. It is not beyond the realm to suggest that Terry McGovern herself suffered from mental illness.

Theo Boehm said...

This thread is depressing enough. Can we get a discount on Prozac from Canada for reading it?

It seems George Papoon is running for President again using the "Not Insane" slogan.  I thought it originally was used by the late Pat Paulson, but I can find no mention of a "Not Insane" plank in his old campaign literature.  May he rest in peace.  I know if he were alive, he'd get my vote.  And it's reassuring to think that if I were dead myself, I could still vote in many precincts around the country.

Perhaps, as a service to the electorate, an independent panel of psychologists could be appointed to examine all Presidential candidates and report on their mental fitness to hold office.  Of course, to be any practical use, such reports would have to be written in plain English understandable to the average voter.  I'd be looking for terms such as, "sick puppy," "crazed son-of-a-bitch," or "power-mad nutcase" to help guide my choice of candidates on Election Day.

johnstodder said...

"Not Insane or Anything You Want To" was the Firesign Theater album that had the "Papoon Balloon," with the campaign slogan that included the words, "you know he's not insane/Not insane!"

It was a pretty bad record as I recall. The genius of "I Think We're All Bozos on the Bus" and its predecessors was completely missing. It was haphazard. But that's the origin.

Theo Boehm said...

Yes, my mother was a Bozo-ette at school.

Revenant said...

Remember, Cheney had four heart attacks before taking office as VP. People discussed it, but I don't remember anyone suggesting he was unfit to serve as VP just because it was quite possible he would be spending part of his term in a hospital getting treatment.

First of all, as others have noted, many people DID suggest that this made Cheney unfit.

Secondly, and more importantly, depression affects your judgment. Heart attacks just kill you. It doesn't really matter if the President (which is the job the VP must be qualified for) is at risk of dropping dead. It matters a great deal if the President is suffering from impaired judgment.

And yes, depression is treatable (although it really wasn't, in 1972). But no treatment is completely effective, and it is impossible for anyone but the patient himself to judge how effective the treatment really is. What this means is that we have no way of knowing if a person who has suffered from serious depression in the past, and is now running for President, is *really* cured or not.

As for the theory that Lincoln suffered from depression -- he very well may have, but both the President and the government he controlled had a LOT less power. Today the US President has the ability to do *enormous* harm to both America and to the entire rest of the planet. It is important that he have all his wits about him.

LutherM said...

If anyone really wants a brief and well-written description of depression, read William Styron's "Darkness Visible". Both depression and bi-polar (manic-depressive) disorder can be successfully treated, but the recovery achieved is not the same as recovery from appendicitis, because the disorder may reoccur. Thomas Eagleton, a very decent man, made a mistake in not telling Frank Mankiewicz/George McGovern about his prior disorder. In the very real world of political campaigns, where "Image is Everything", looking perfect has an insurmountable advantage over appearing flawed. McGovern's recent comment shows more about his own essential decency than any realistic assessment of campaign possibilities. Eagleton and McGovern will be more highly regarded as human beings than as successful politicians. As for reality vs. image, the winners in the 1972 election were Spiro T. Agnew, who was a crook, and Richard M. Nixon, who claimed "I am not a crook".
"Things are seldom as they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream." Sir William S. Gilbert H.M.S. Pinafore, act 1

Pogo said...

Here Althouse runs afoul of the very same consensus from the left on diversity that threatens to fell law professor Kaplan.

In their world, all differences are beautiful. Criticism is not permitted (nor is even discussing the bad effects of criticism allowed) if it causes or may cause discomfort. Disagreement is de facto bigotry.

In Eagleton's case, his recurrent depressions were so severe they raised questions about his sanity around the time before, during, and shortly after his treatments, howevermuch successful. But in the modern lefty view, soft n' coddling, therapeutic n' nurturing, this is not evidence of disability (or even danger, given the position sought), but a Difference to be Celebrated.

Kaplan has learned that one must never discuss any cultural elements as inferior or superior to others. Althouse is being told, quite seriously, that a blind man should have been allowed to fly the plane.

Freder Frederson said...

Althouse is being told, quite seriously, that a blind man should have been allowed to fly the plane.

She, of course, is being told nothing of the sort. She made a shockingly ignorant statement, or rather in typical Ann Althouse style phrased it as a question ("Even today, do we really know so much more about mental illness?"). The answer to that question is definitively "yes". When she was called on that question, instead of admitting she was wrong, she just dug herself a deeper hole.

Depression is a chronic medical condition. And yes, it can affect your judgment and ability to perform tasks. Even when under control, a person who suffers from depression can have episodes. But so what, there are other medical conditions that are not "mental illnesses" that we would say exactly the same thing about (e.g., diabetes, migraine headaches). Are you seriously suggesting that a diabetic would be unfit to be president?

You, along with Ann, obviously know next to nothing about depression, its effects, or the great advances in treatment over the last thirty-five years. Otherwise you too, would not make such ignorant statements. I am not saying that blind man should be allowed to fly a plane, but a man who's vision can be corrected to 20/20 with glasses be allowed to fly a plane.

As I noted above, George Bush has admitted to having a serious drinking problem in his past. Alcoholics struggle every day with their disease against a relapse. Certainly under Ann's standard (of course she never said that, she just posed a question), George Bush should never have been elected president because of his past history of substance abuse. Of course every time it was brought up those of us on the left were shouted down because events in GW's distant past are irrelevant.

Ann Althouse said...

Bush's alcoholic past was irrelevant? That's a new one. It shows something about his character. And I've read many anti-Bush articles that go on about his problems as a "dry drunk." You're disavowing all that, Freder?

Pogo said...

Re"yes, it can affect your judgment and ability to perform tasks."
Hence my concern with access to The Button during Black Days..

Re: "Are you seriously suggesting that a diabetic would be unfit to be president?"
An older man with diabetes for more than 15 years has a very high chance for accompanying dementia. A 'brittle' diabetic may be experience serious hypo and hyperglycemic spells characterized by several hours of impaired judgement. The answer is, it depends. Eagleton had severe depression, repeatedly, not just mild type 2 diabetes with little secondary effect. So you're conflating two very different conditions, which is false.

Re: "You, along with Ann, obviously know next to nothing about depression, its effects, or the great advances in treatment over the last thirty-five years."
Damn, 4 years of medical school, 6 years of postgrad training, and 17 years of practice wasted. Heh.

Freder Frederson said...

Bush's alcoholic past was irrelevant? That's a new one.

That's not what I said and you know it.

Freder Frederson said...

Damn, 4 years of medical school, 6 years of postgrad training, and 17 years of practice wasted. Heh.

Apparently, if you compare depression with a blind man flying a plane.

Pogo said...

Re: 'Apparently, if you compare depression with a blind man flying a plane."

People who are unable to follow simple syllogisms (or deliberately misrepresent them) should similarly be barred from flying planes.

I'll write with small words so you understand: a man who is repeatedly so depressed that he cannot get dressed in the moring is temporarily incompetent and his judgement cannot be trusted. he's not allowed to even be by himself, and is told not to drive alone (because single car accidents are a common way to kill oneself). Therefore, he should not "fly the plane" (i.e. run the country) while depressed, and given the frequency and uncertainty of recurrence known back in 1970, shouldn't have run for office.

I hope you find that easier to understand.

Freder Frederson said...

Eagleton had severe depression, repeatedly, not just mild type 2 diabetes with little secondary effect.

Really? Eagleton apparently checked himself into the hospital in the late fifties or the early sixties when the disease was much less well understood than it was even in 1972 (let alone 2007). As a doctor you should know better than to try and diagnose him fifty years later or make blanket statements about all people suffering from chronic depression being unfit for high public office.

Freder Frederson said...

I'll write with small words so you understand

And I'll write small words so you understand Dr. Frist. Unless you are privy to Eagleton's medical records, you have no business assessing his fitness. Ann's proposition was that we apparently know nothing more about depression than we did in in the sixties. And that even today, depression (but apparently not alcoholism), an easily treatable and controllable mental illness, should preclude a person from serving in high public office. This of course is nonsense.

As you should well know, even if Eagleton's depression was as severe as you assume, today's treatments probably could have controlled his depression to that such an extent that hospitalization would be completely unnecessary and that severe depressive episodes eliminated. Your comparisons to a blind man flying a plane is simply inappropriate.

Joe Baby said...

I guess if you got stomped by 23 points it's not a lapse in sanity to think "I should've campaigned while wearing a fez/speaking Bulgarian/with Tom Eagleton."

Pogo said...

Re: "if Eagleton's depression was as severe as you assume, today's treatments probably could have..."

That's the point, isn't it? We are talking about then, which isn't now.

Moreover, you castigate me for 'diagnosing', and then pose your own conjecture about how he would respond to treatment today.

ECT for depression in the 1970s was a big deal, reserved for profoundly incapacitated people. With the development of psychiatric medications and stigma associated with ECT in the 1960's, the use of ECT treatment declined significantly. Its use increased after the 1970's because of improved treatment delivery methods. At his time, it simply wasn't done lightly or often. A politician would have been especially cautious, knowing its secondary meaning (Kesey wrote 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' in 1962, for Pete's sake). I don't have to know his record to know that.

Mike said...

"So you're conflating two very different conditions, which is false."

That's our Freder!

Freder Frederson said...

That's the point, isn't it? We are talking about then, which isn't now.

No, we're (or at least Ann and I) are talking about now. Reread her post. She is pondering whether we know about depression now as we did in 1972. That is a stupid question as we obviously do. Then she goes on to ponder whether someone who had been hospitalized three times would be fit even today. Another stupid question since the symptoms that would justify hospitalization in 1990 (and ECT) would be vastly different than those that would trigger hospitalization in 1960.

I'm just responding to Ann's stupid questions. She was pondering whether someone with a similar history would be fit to serve today. I am saying that it is highly unlikely that someone with a similar history would have been hospitalized three times if he were running in 2007, so it is a ridiculous argument.

Pogo said...

Re: "would we say that someone who had been hospitalized three times for depression should be Vice President?"

Hard to say, really. Someone who's bad enough to require repeated hospitalizations for depression today is indeed frequently disabled. And that is not an uncommon history (I know such patients).

I would say such a candidate was not equipped to withstand such a meatgrinder as the Presidency. But that just means I wouldn't vote for him. I wouldn't disallow it.

Ann Althouse said...

"It seems to me that McGovern would have rejected him if he'd known, as would any other competent presidential candidate then or now, and Eagleton's failure to disclose that information to Mankiewicz was an entirely separate reason to reject him."

That's the statement in the original post. It's not a statement about whether a given individual with as severe a past record of depression as Eagleton had might in fact be fit to serve. It's that no competent candidate would choose someone with that record as a running mate. It raises too many concerns about fitness. He might nevertheless be fit, but voters have to judge based on less than perfect evidence, and it would be crazy to invite that issue into the campaign with the choice of a running mate.

Robert said...

I once read an essay about Adlai Stevenson that described him (disparagingly) as "FRD without the polio."
The implication, expanded upon further, was that Roosevelt's privileged background and (generally) fortunate life did not betray the depths of character and force of personality that his struggle with paralysis revealed.
Further, it was argued, that very experience led to the personal strength and _cran_ that enabled him to lead the country through its worst years since the Civil War.

Likewise, Churchill (as previously mentioned in this thread) and his lifelong struggle with debilitating depression. It can be, and has been, argued that his ability to stand at the helm of an embattled Fortress Britannia and hurl defiance in the teeth of an enemy that had occupied Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic was due in no small part to his having been through the depths of the Slough of Despond and come out the other side.

That said, and in my own words - I would, if faced with the choice, much rather have a depressive POTUS than a manic one.

Freder Frederson said...

That's the statement in the original post. It's not a statement about whether a given individual with as severe a past record of depression as Eagleton had might in fact be fit to serve

Boy Ann, I bet you could beat Lester Maddox in a backwards bicycle race!

LutherM said...

freder frederson said
"Alcoholics struggle every day with their disease against a relapse." That statement may describe some early in the recovery process, but for a great many people, to describe their life as "struggle every day...against a relapse" is simply not true. In the Forward to the text "Alcoholics Anonymous", the author, Bill Wilson, stated
"We, of Alcoholics Anonymous, are more than one hundred men and women who have recovered from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. To show other alcoholics precisely how we have recovered is the main purpose of this book." To recover, not drinking alcohol is necessary, but many have not even a fleeting desire to drink.. Apparently, the A.A. program works only if the individual wants to stop drinking - it's not like antibiotics for Strep throat. Many people do not know about the instances of recovery, because one of the A.A. principles is anonymity regarding press, TV, etc. But people who suspect that their, or a friend's, drinking has caused problems might want to check out the A.A. web site or meetings in their locality.

Fen said...

Sorry, I'm compassionate about mental illness, but I don't want the President to have it. We have to rely on his judgment (and energy), and I don't think severe depression is acceptable.

Not sure I agree. I can see what you mean - we wouldn't want a sex addict consumed with interns while Al Queda tests our resolve. I've been through the black pit myself and agree that it colours perspective and judgement.

But I'd hate to disqualify a good leader [like Churchill]. Sometimes the only leader who can save the day is that brooding alcoholic chauvanist sexist on the back bench.

Athena said...

Mental illness is not a singular diagnosis. Instead, the term 'mental illness' encompasses a variety of symptoms, diagnoses, prognoses, and treatment plans.

Whereas someone in an acute schizophrenic state might fit Ann's criteria for someone who would not do a good job holding public office; I think that someone who dealt with a depressive episode over a decade ago and sought what was considered at the time state of the art treatment for the disorder could successfully hold public office in the executive branch.

Similarly, while many people would not want someone in the acute throws of liver disease as president, someone who survived a bout of hepatitis 15 years prior would not have much of an issue in convincing the public that he was up to the challenge of being a world leader.

David said...

Prior to being the Vice Presidential nominee, Thomas Eagleton served in the Senate; and his career was further bookended by successful legal practice. Obviously, his experience with depression did NOT make him incompetent -- we have data on this. There is no way that Althouse's ignoring the whole record of Sen. Eagleton's service and focusing on one episode from 1972 is anyting other than insidious bias against persons with mental illness. Policies, not personalities, people.

Steven said...

As someone who has personally been hospitalized for depression four times before finally finding a medication and dosage that mitigated the worst of it, I know I certainly would not want such a person as President in the modern era unless they have a working chronic treatment or have been cured (with at least five, and preferably ten, years since the last severe depressive episode in either case as proof of the cure).

Could a person severely depressed cope? Given enough downtime, yes. In the pressure-cooker that is the modern Presidency? I doubt it.

Performance in the Senate is not remotely equivalent. Vote-pairing as a custom works precisely because an individual Senator or Representative is unimportant as long as he doesn't change the outcome of a vote. Similarly, the practice of law has plenty of flexibility, where you often can put off to tomorrow or on to a partner something you can't really get yourself to do today. The long travel times of the Civil War and the siege nature of Britain's involvement in WWII similarly granted flexibility in scheduling to Lincoln and Churchill.

In the 21st Century? I want a President who gets no more than ordinarily blue.

(And that's setting aside the recklessness one can feel in a depressive state. Someone like that as Commander-in-Chief? Trust me, you wouldn't have wanted deep-bout-me able to order airstrikes without being countermanded.)

Revenant said...

Well said, Steven.

Steven said...

(Oh, and I do want to make clear: I'm speaking in the abstract.

I don't know Eagleton's medical history, so I can't comment on his specific case. I especially don't know what standards were involved in his hospitalizations and his treatment. I'd guess that the objections in 1972 were more to his having undergone electroshock than his depression, though having not been born yet I can't really judge that. I certainly don't know how good a President he would or would not have made had it come to the test.

But serious depression is not something like sex or skin color or number of limbs or a heart condition. It affects the quality of decisions and the ability to come to decisions. It's important.

Of course, in a specific candidate-vs-candidate match-up the severely depressed candidate might be the less-bad option, but that can be said of almost anything.)

Fen said...

the siege nature of Britain's involvement in WWII similarly granted flexibility in scheduling to...Churchill. In the 21st Century? I want a President who gets no more than ordinarily blue

Good point. I'll have to rethink my position on that.

former law student said...
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former law student said...

First of all, McGovern could scarcely have lost worse than he did. Therefore he might as well have kept Eagleton.

Second, Eagleton betrayed McGovern by omitting to mention a material fact. No one wants a President who gets blindsided -- the President has to be on watch on our behalf.

Third, the issue was not so much depression (which most folks interpreted as simple sadness or feeling blue) but electroshock therapy, which implied a serious, incapacitating mental illness that responded only to drastic treatment. Further, few could have related to or understood electroshock therapy. The notion of having lightning bolts shot through your brain evokes Frankenstein's monster.