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June 16, 2004 | Through a glass, darkly. That's how most Americans see the character and personality of George W. Bush. The only difference is the tint: Bush's supporters look at him through a rosy filter that makes him look like a man of moral fiber and resolve, unpretentious and commonsensical. His detractors see everything he does with a sallow brown tinge, tainted by greed, dishonesty, bellicosity, self-righteousness and ignorance. But even the most alarmist descriptions of him clash: The Bush-bashers' Bush is either a scheming, shameless champion of the rich and powerful or their empty-headed puppet, a soulless tool of corporate power or a religious fanatic convinced he's preparing the nation for the Second Coming. None of these versions jibes very well with the accounts of people who actually know him, and so -- once you step outside the cartoon universe of pure polemics -- Bush himself has never quite come into focus.
"Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President," by Justin Frank, a clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at George Washington University Medical Center, is supposed to offer a more in-depth portrait. To say that it succeeds would be to give Frank and his publisher too much credit. This is a sloppily written and edited book, padded with repetitions and laced with dubious psychological theories. It is also -- despite Frank's avowed intention to "preserve a distinction between my personal questions about President Bush's politics and my psychoanalytic evaluation of his character," far too partisan a work to make any claim to being a judicious examination of Bush the man.
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