The Sciences

Charles Krauthammer: The Perils of Pundit Psychiatry

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyApr 26, 2010 3:11 PM

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Brendan Nyhan has a great post about Charles Krauthammer and his claims about the mental illness of some of his political opponents. This is notable, and somewhat more than standard political misbehavior, in that Krauthammer is actually a psychiatrist. Some examples:

-"Now, I cannot testify to Howard Dean's sanity before this campaign, but five terms as governor by a man with no visible tics and no history of involuntary confinement is pretty good evidence of a normal mental status. When he avers, however, that 'the most interesting' theory as to why the president is 'suppressing' the Sept. 11 report is that Bush knew about Sept. 11 in advance, it's time to check on thorazine supplies." (Washington Post, 12/5/03)

-"Well, it looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again." (Fox Special Report, 5/25/04)

And yet at other times, Krauthammer has disavowed precisely this sort of stuff, writing:

As a former psychiatrist, I know how difficult it is to try to understand the soul of even someone you have spent hundreds of hours alone with in therapy. To think that one can decipher the inner life of some distant public figure is folly. Even the experts haven't a clue. Remember that group of psychiatrists, 1,189 strong, who in 1964 signed a statement asserting their professional judgment that Barry Goldwater was psychologically unfit to be president? The very attempt to make such a diagnosis at a distance is malpractice.

So why do it, then, Mr. Krauthammer? Read Nyhan

for more.

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